“Child is the father of man” ~ William Wordsworth. I can still clearly recall how animatedly George Sir, our English teacher in school, explained the meaning of this beautiful idiom to us. Although my amateur mind couldn’t entirely fathom the deep meaning hidden behind those words back then, I’m fairly certain that now I can. The elders in our life viz our parents, family, teachers, etc richly contribute towards the person we become. They nurture us by planting the seed of kindness in our hearts and liberally enrich it with the light of wisdom and the flow of knowledge. Isn’t it our moral responsibility then to ensure that they’re cared for and the mental health of senior citizens in our life is given prominence and timely addressed?
My Dad was homebound and alone for 6 months during the lockdown last year. While I grumbled about piled-up work and lost sense of self, he patiently convinced me that ‘this too shall pass’. Even though it was genuinely comforting, his positive outlook baffled me no end. I wished I could think like him. However, the fear and frustration from then are now replaced with widespread infections, crumbling of our healthcare system, and worse, countless fatalities. Death has engulfed our families and close ones, rudely making us aware of its infinite power. So much so, that my cheerful Dad has marginally lost his optimism too. The mental health of senior citizens, hence, is now more important than ever. Pandemic or not, what can we do to prepare them better for this phase of life?
Stimulate their mind
Remember how we invented new activities for our kids when they were younger? Old age isn’t much different than that, although one cannot expect elders to be as compliant. A stimulated mind keeps you alert, occupied and is a wonderful companion. Motivate them to take up reading, introduce them to video games and puzzles or encourage them to maintain a gratitude diary. Learning to play an instrument or a new language can be good options too if they’re interested. Let them take up something they will enjoy, not for distraction.
Get in touch with friends
A morning walk in the park or gossip over an evening cup of tea are events elders look forward to. It is their time to fraternise, exchange updates and grouse about the bad state of our economy. Social media has helped create a window to their past where they can reacquaint themselves with their long lost buddies. The daily Good morning messages on Whatsapp may be annoying but that’s their way to demonstrate their love. Laughter clubs are a superb way to handle mental health of senior citizens too. My Dad, like any typical man, hardly recollects birthdays or anniversaries but is the first one to wish anyone on Facebook. Isn’t that cute? Don’t judge them over how they choose to spend their time, they’ve earned that right.
Be physically fit
Old age is marred with multiple heath complications, many of which are easily preventable. Lifestyle diseases like blood pressure and diabetes often invite issues like anxiety and depression. Persuade them to take up any physical activity and make it a habit. Walking, Yoga, stretching, light weight training, breathing exercises are good for physical as well as mental health. These will keep them in good shape, infuse positivity and also keep their joints lubricated. A healthy mind in a healthy body, after all!
Sometimes people have the intent and means but not the time to invest in volunteer work. There are a wide range of non profit organisations that can benefit from the assistance of an experienced professional. Teaching underprivileged children, partnering with various clubs for social work, giving a hand in community kitchens, hospitals, etc are some ways in which they can volunteer. However, mental health of senior citizens and their safety should be the topmost priority.
Find a new hobby
Fast-paced and competitive life robs people off their love for hobbies. Retired life is the best time to explore new things. Motivate them to make a bucket list if they haven’t and offer to do your bit to tick items off it. Gardening, cooking, playing a new sport or travelling the world are fun hobbies to find time for. These will not only boost their confidence but also make them socially active. With spouses or alone, egg them on to be the ‘coolest grandparents’ in the vicinity by simply enjoying themselves!
As we grow up the strong hand that held our little finger while we took our first step becomes fragile, wrinkled and craves support from us instead. What better than giving it the purpose and enthusiasm to always be the stronger one? Mental health of senior citizens like our parents, relatives and even neighbours is our responsibility. They’re going through a challenging time of their lives and possibly averse to sharing their real fears with you. You still understand them, don’t you?
This post is part of #CauseAChatter with Blogchatter
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