Older people are often the beating heart of the community, active in local residents associations, raising money for local charities or simply passing on the benefit of their life experience in local clubs. However, they can sometimes feel brushed aside by society; that their concerns go unnoticed. To celebrate older people in the community, this month, Age Action is promoting Positive Ageing Week.
Justin Moran, head of advocacy and communications with the charity, says the week is about “challenging the image of older people as having nothing more to offer and celebrating everything they contribute”. A host of events will run throughout the week. Why not take a leaf out of hotelier Francis Brennan’s book and go on the ‘Senior Safari’ at Dublin Zoo? Or get involved in ‘Digi Hour’ (8pm, September 29), which is part of a new initiative to encourage older people to get online.
“There are already loads of events planned, with dancing, football blitzes and aqua aerobics for those with energy to burn; and for those taking a more relaxed approach, coffee mornings, bingo, mystery tours and cinema trips,” says Moran.
Age Action is also urging people across the country to organise their own events.
1 Plan ahead
Maybe the most important tip you’ll ever get is to plan ahead. How will you ensure you have a sufficient income in retirement? Where are you going to live: would you like to downsize or is there somewhere you hoped to retire to? Don’t leave this all to chance — think it through in advance.
2 Take up a hobby
This can be a great way to meet people, as well as to try something new. You could take up something active, like sports or dancing, or something a little more sedate like painting or fishing. There are lots of activities out there to choose from; you’re only restricted by your imagination.
3 Maintain health
As we get older, it is more and more important to be mindful of your health. This doesn’t mean worrying about it constantly, rather, do what you can to head potential problems off at the pass. Ensure you get a regular check-up, and talk all your ailments through — no matter how minor they may seem — with your GP. Enjoy a balanced diet, don’t smoke, and drink alcohol in moderation. The healthier you are, the more you’re going to get out of life.
Whether it’s your local community group, sports club or charity, there are some great organisations out there that thrive on a staff of older volunteers who have the life experience, time and patience to contribute. They are always looking for people to lend a hand and it can be a hugely rewarding experience.
Stay physically active. At the very least, aim for a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day, but don’t be afraid to be ambitious. Take up an exercise class or even join a gym. Some people are running marathons into their 80s and while that’s not for everyone, it shows age is no barrier.
6 Learn something new
None of us ever really stop learning and later life can be a great time to focus on something that really interests you. There are lots of lifelong learning groups around the country with people learning new languages or new skills and having a great time doing it.
7 Never stop exploring
Later life can be a terrific opportunity to take that trip you’ve always dreamed about. There are travel and adventure companies that specialise in organising holidays that cater to older customers and are well worth checking out.
8 Adopt a pet
Animals can be great company and a great encouragement to take exercise. There are always cats, dogs and other animals in shelters looking for their ‘forever home’ and you might be the person to provide it.
9 Time for friends and family
We all have such busy lives it can be difficult to keep in touch and to make time for the people who are important to us. Make time for the people you care about and reconnect with old friends.
10 Keep working
Many people can’t wait to retire, just as there are others who might like to keep working — just maybe not at the same pace. Lots of people enjoy working and keep going into their 70s, maybe working part-time or in a less demanding role. Some even start new businesses.
11 Get online
Only 37pc of Irish people between 65 and 74 use the internet— way below our British neighbours in the same age bracket, at 70pc. We’re really missing out. Ask a friend or family member to help or sign up to an Age Action Getting Started course. The first step is the hardest and after that, there’s a whole world to explore.
Why should romance be left to young people? We’re living longer, more active lives, and it can be even better with a special person to share it with. A number of agencies, on and off line, offer services here — or you can try the tried and trusted way of asking out someone you like.
13 Know your rights
Make sure you know everything to which you’re entitled. The Irish Council for Civil Liberties recently published Know Your Rights – A Guide for Older People, with lots of useful information about accessing pensions, healthcare and dealing with elder abuse, as well as lots of useful phone numbers.
14 Can-do attitude
Any successful athlete or businessperson will tell you about the importance of thinking positively and it’s no different with ageing. Don’t let yourself be held back. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re ‘too old’ for something.
15 Rent out a room
If you have a spare room in the house, why not think of renting it out? Maybe a student needs digs? Maybe you and a friend could move in together and share costs while keeping each other company? You could check out groups such as Airbnb, and earn a little extra to add to the savings.
* A list of events for Positive Ageing Week (September 26-October 2) is available on www.ageaction.ie/positiveageingweek, where organisers can also register their own event
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