Achieving Well-Being

written by Chloe Hamilton of Warm Embrace Elder Care

“All of us will age eventually, if we live long enough,” stated Dr. Peter Naus at the June 15th “Celebrating Seniors” event.  His lecture focused on the positive elements of aging, which actually begins at birth.  In reality, people cannot delay aging, they can only impact the way in which they will choose to age.

The old saying “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks” is simply not true, according to Naus.  Perhaps it is true for canines, but it does not apply to humans.  We retain our ability to learn throughout life, and can continue to make significant contributions to society.

Naus feels that the most important element of positive aging is to have a sense of well-being.  He defines well-being as having a positive outlook on life, maintaining a purpose despite loss, having a realistic sense of control over one’s life, and having a strong sense of self.  These conditions are not constant; they fluctuate constantly.  It is possible to achieve a sense of well-being even amidst declining health.

Naus also offered practical advice on how to achieve well-being: eat well, exercise, drink less alcohol, do not smoke, and stimulate your mind.  Do not minimize the gains in life, or maximize the losses—don’t exaggerate the extremes.  Be sure to “count what you have, and not what you lack,” and Naus says you will be closer to achieving well-being.

Old-age should be a time for discovery.  Discovery of what, you may ask?  True discovery is an individual journey, so you must find it for yourself.  Seniors need a vision, a dream, not just memory alone.  You will find peace if you truly believe “just to be is a blessing, just to live is holy.”  Such concepts are not unique to old age; these tenets create well-being at any age.  Naus encouraged the audience to live well at every stage of life, and remember that it is never too late for change.

There are pervasive negative connotations throughout Canadian society regarding aging.  There is a strong market for “anti-aging” products and services, but the term alone is problematic.  By deeming a product or service “anti-aging” it is suggestive that there is an inherent problem with aging.  Indeed, we even tend to pay compliments by suggesting someone looks younger than their age, as though retaining a youthful appearance is akin to aging gracefully.

Cicero, the roman emperor, wrote that the “the course of life is clear to see, each stage has unique peculiarities,” and “each stage should be gone in time,” suggesting that hanging on to one phase longer than it’s natural course is the very opposite of graceful aging.  Instead, the “mellowness of age” should be embraced as a stage of life.

Seniors deserve to be valued for the wisdom that they can share with others.  They are living proof that aging is not synonymous with being sick and decrepit.  Instead, old age can be a time for deep fulfillment and pleasure, a time for personal well-being.

Naus concluded by challenging the audience with two choices:  “we have a decision to make.   Either we can put all of our energy into denying aging, or we can embrace aging as a natural and meaningful part of life, and achieve well-being.”

Written by Chloe Hamilton of Warm Embrace Elder Care

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