Aging and health
“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art!” – Theodore Roosevelt
To say that life has been at its toughest this 2020, is an understatement, with the Covid 19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe.
While every one is at risk of contracting Covid 19, the elderly population are significantly more vulnerable. The likelihood of them developing severe illness if they contract the disease due to their age, underlying health conditions and weak immune systems therein is much more.
However Covid or not, a healthy diet and disciplined daily routine are key to maintain mental acuteness, keep up energy levels and build up resistance to various ailments in elders.
It is often seen that decreased sensitivity to smell and taste, side effects of medication, poor dental health, lack of finances and transport facilities, physiological difficulties, memory loss and depression are some of the common age related challenges that obstruct a balanced diet intake in many senior citizens.
For starters, let us look at the daily routines of some seniors and their disciplined efforts towards the upkeep of their health.
Mrs Savita, 66, Chennai sharing her daily routine says, “The first drink we have in the morning has lemon juice plus honey. At times we also add different herbs like bay leaf or cinnamon or lavang or cardamom on different days. We have regular tea after sometime. Around 8 to 8 30 a.m, we have one glass ‘kanji’ (mostly millet /Ragi or oats) along with a banana and pieces of two other fruits like apple/ pomegranate/ papaya/ guava etc.
We have lunch after 11 am as Chennaiites are used to early lunch which usually comprises of regular rice, one vegetable curry, servings of sambhar /rasam etc. Around 2 30 pm (after a short nap) we have tea with few nuts and some snacks followed by some tiffin around 4 30pm which could be Upma, Pohaa, crispy dosa with chutney etc. After 5pm, we go to terrace and walk for half an hour for a brisk walk and mild exercises etc. We have dinner at 8pm which is usually light rice with rasam and curd. We finish the day with a glass of hot water before retiring.”
Mrs. Raji from Coimbatore shares her 86 year old mother in law’s daily time table which is as follows, “Morning coffee – between 7 & 7.30 am. Mosambi juice 9.30 am.
Breakfast – Dosa, curd, buttermilk and at times one Banana. 12.45 pm lunch – Rasam, one vegetable with ghee, rice n curd, Sweet pickle.
Tea at 4.30 pm with 2 biscuits. Dinner between 7.45 – 8.00 pm. Again rice, vegetable, rasam, curd”. She adds, “My mil’s sugar intake is more because she is non diabetic.
Sometime during the night she will have banana. She also has toffees for her sweet tooth. She takes a serving of grapes but other seasonal fruits she has only one or two pieces because she has IBS n they dont suit her stomach. I ask her to walk in the terrace but she avoids due to her knee pain. But to sum up, she is quite healthy for her age.”
Dr. Ram, 74, Hyderabad says he begins his day at 6.30am with a glass of warm water added to which is a pinch of turmeric, lemon juice, mixed powder of ginger,cinnamon etc. He takes his first cup of coffee at 8 am. This is followed by some hand and upper body exercises. Between 8 30 and 9 am he has his breakfast which usually comprises of a multi grain ‘kanji’, or idli/dosa/ plain paratha with chutney etc. After his bath at 10.30 am he practices chanting meditative prayers for half an hour. He takes a glass of buttermilk or horlicks around 11.30am. His lunch time is 1 30 pm usually comprising of rice, sambar/rasam/dal, with a vegetable curry and curd. He takes a nap for an hour from 3- 4 pm. Between 4 30 – 5 pm he prefers any fruit or some snacks with his cup of coffee. 8 pm is dinner time which usually comprises of roti with vegetables and a bowl of curd followed by stroll in the building corridor for a while. 10 30 pm is when he begins his sleep preparations while listening to mild music of his choice.
Mr. Yadav, 75, New Delhi, begins his day at 6 am with a glass of warm water with a pinch of cinnamon powder in it following which he practices extended Yoga exercises for an hour. He has his tea with some biscuits at 8 am after which he tends to his garden. At 9.30am he takes his breakfast of Dalia kanji with a banana or at times Parathas with green chutney before taking his BP medication. His bath, prayer time, small siesta time is followed by lunch of Roti with seasonal vegetables at 1.45-2 pm. Tea time is usually at 5 pm followed by brisk walk from 6.30-7 pm. Dinner time is 9pm, again a light diet of rotis with vegetables or rice and dal and raita. Hot turmeric milk is a compulsory fixture before he retires for the night after 10.30pm.
Mrs Kamala, 74, Pune, also follows a similar routine like the others. But she makes it a point to insist on having a spoon of ghee with rice as regularly as possible as it is an important source of vitamin B 12 for vegetarians.
Retired High school teacher, Mrs, Revathy, 68, maintains her school life discipline even today. She shares her daily routine as follows.
“I wake up between five n six am with my ‘to do list’ mentally ready and get on to the job.Tea, biscuit in the morning. Breakfast between 9.30 and 10 am – Idli, dosa, upma etc. Simple lunch of kichdi or rice dal sabji, or chapatti bhaji. Dahi is must. Evening around 4 30 tea with some snacks. Dinner by 7.30, usually anything light or even curd rice or soya balls soaked in hot water then add curd to it. Daily 4 spoons of ghee must spaced out between the meals. I enjoy Green tea atleast once a day. Serving of any fruit once a day is a given. I also juggle between walking or simple yoga or stretching exercises daily.”
She also leaves us with some simple yet positive life lessons for her contemporaries who may be coping with different kinds of emotional pressures. She encourages every one to never allow the fear of this pandemic situation settle in their minds and stay optimistic. She also mentions that she doesn’t expect others to engage her all the time. Instead she engages herself with different activities like reading, watching web programmes, chatting with friends, learning new things and and thereby leads a contended and peaceful life.
These self imposed regimen seem to work for all these elders in keeping them agile and optimistic about their lives. They should inspire many others to bring about a similar attitude of self discipline and positivity towards their health and fitness.
One of the key common take aways from their routines seems to be their adherance to timing, regular exercise and eating lighter food comprising of small yet varied portions of all essential nutrients. Eating well can also be the key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced.
People who eat fruit, leafy vegetables, fish and nuts which are flush with omega-3 fatty acids may seem to be able to increase their concentration powers and decrease their risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Antioxidant-rich green tea may also enhance memory and mental alertness as you age and make you feel better. Wholesome meals can give them more energy and help them look better, resulting in a boost to their mood and self-esteem which may go a long way in keeping senior citizens upbeat about their lives.
Eating healthy and eating well as one ages is more than just the quality and variety of your food. It’s also about the ability to enjoy what one is eating, a feeling which increases when a meal is shared with more than one. Eating with others can be as important as adding vitamins to your diet. A social atmosphere stimulates ones mind, makes meals more enjoyable, and can help the elderly who live alone also to stick to a healthy eating plan with cooperation from extended family, friends and social/community groups on a regular basis.
At the end It all seems inter connected— a healthy and well nourished body makes for a happier, positive and well nourished soul, young or old.
“Aging is an extra ordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.”
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