Active old age, the key to wisdom
Who said that getting older means giving up living life to the full? There are more and more initiatives to combat the loneliness of the elderly, yes, but also to enjoy an active life, help the community with wisdom and keep the mind awake.
Europe’s population is living longer and longer. Ageing is a healthy, natural and progressive process. This is why the well-being of older people has become a priority. The term that best defines the vitality expected in the last stage of life is active old age. And living actively means maintaining emotional balance, valuing one’s own convictions, listening to and learning from others and, above all, sharing. Because a socially active life is one of the best ways to improve our mood.
To enjoy this active old age, therefore, we must choose the paths that best suit our interests. Therefore, as the Diputació de Barcelona reminds us in its health guide for the elderly, if you are a good sportsperson, walk; if you are a good cook, cook; if you are a caring person, get involved in volunteering. Think about what your abilities are, and enhance them. At 11Onze we give you eight ideas.
- To share, to love. The organisation Amigos de los Mayores (Friends of the Elderly) has been working for many years to leave behind the unwanted loneliness of our elderly. As they point out on their website, according to IDESCAT data, 780,500 people live alone in Catalonia, 42.5% of whom are over 65 years old. Loneliness affects more than 175,000 elderly people, and has reached historic figures in Barcelona, where a quarter of this population lives alone. For this reason, the organisation has a very powerful volunteer programme. You can accompany someone emotionally for a few hours a week, accompany them by telephone, take part in festive activities and help with the organisation’s work.
- Be a radar. Precisely to combat this unwanted loneliness, Barcelona City Council has promoted the Radars project, which is more than volunteering and involves the entire neighbourhood community. It is a community initiative that brings together neighbours, shops, volunteers and organisations. The aim is to make older people feel safer in their community. All you need to do to participate is to be attentive, sensitive and respectful. If you detect any change in the elderly people living around you, you can contact the project and, if you feel motivated, you can collaborate in the debate tables, in the accompaniments and welcomes or in the telephone follow-up platform.
- Grow in community. One of the activities that is weaving many community links in the cities are the urban vegetable gardens. Almost every town and city in Catalonia has organised one of these gardens. Urban gardens have a recreational purpose, but at the same time they allow people to recover their links with the countryside, in a context in which local products are increasingly valued by the community. While traditional vegetable gardens disappeared with the urban growth of cities, they are now being revived and new ones are being created. Urban gardens are spaces for neighbourhood coexistence and are a form of environmental and nutritional education.
- Keep learning. There are more and more people who, when they reach retirement age, find the time to study that university degree they have always been passionate about, after years of work and effort. All Catalan universities have university extension courses for older people. There is no shortage of programmes. The aim of these studies, which are regulated by law, is to welcome people over the age of 50 who are interested in obtaining new knowledge and who feel the need to continue contributing their bit to society.
- Looking for company. To feel more active, it is also good to be accompanied by younger people. For this reason, many older people decide to take in university students, who at the same time help them in their day-to-day life. There are many organisations, such as the Fundació Roure, that work to find the perfect match, like someone looking for a dance partner. In addition, the Generalitat has also successfully promoted a mentoring programme to help newcomers integrate into their new host society. The mentors accompany migrants, often in asylum or refugee situations, to make arrangements, find decent housing and share leisure activities.
- Be a support for the younger ones. Likewise, there are many nurseries and residential centres for the elderly that are beginning to weave links between the older generations and the youngest members of the house. The Vendrell Town Council, for example, organises intergenerational activities through the Patronat Municipal Hospital Asil Sant Salvador. Experts believe that these activities help to improve their health and reinforce their self-esteem. Cognitive and mood improvements are also observed.
- Take care of yourself. If you don’t get enough stimulation from the company of neighbours, young people or children, you can always let yourself be looked after by a pet. Many organisations that accompany older people have incorporated programmes with dogs or horses, because it has been proven that animal-assisted interventions bring physical, social, emotional and cognitive improvements to older people.
- Get involved in social movements. And if you feel active and pretty pissed off with the context in which we live, you can also take action and get involved in social movements. There are the neighbourhood associations, the Marea Pensionista, the Marea Blanca, the Alianza contra la Pobreza Energética, the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, the Sindicat de Llogateres, the Plataforma per la Llengua, Òmnium, the Consorci per a la Normalització Lingüística and many other entities that need your support to assert their shared struggles.
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