Heart and Soul: Staying happy as we age

Photos: Joseph Lopez

Heart & Soul

Do you have any real-life, heart-warming stories to share with readers? We'd love to hear from you. Please keep your story within 900 words. Photos are optional and should be in JPEG format (file size about 1MB, captioned). There is no payment for stories, and we reserve the right to edit all submissions. Email your story to: lifestyle@thestar.com.my with the subject "Heart and Soul".

We are an ageing nation. According to the Malaysia Census Report 2020, 10.4% of our population comprises those above 60 years of age. It is predicted that by 2030, 15.3% of our population will fall into this category.

Senior citizens face many other challenges. Loneliness and social isolation often worsen as we age, resulting in higher rates of depression compared to those who are younger. Children living outside the country, loss of family or friends, chronic illness, mobility issues and hearing loss are some of the reasons for this.

It is therefore important that we try to be as happy as possible as we get older. The transition from full-time employment to not having to work after retirement can be unsettling for some. With plenty of time on their hands, retirees often don't know what to do with it.

A doctor friend of mine told me that exercise becomes compulsory, especially after age 60. Exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, and improves one's mood and promotes a feeling of well-being.

Floral arrangement by the writer.Floral arrangement by the writer.

Seniors who have been exercising for a long time have fewer health problems. At my club, there are persons in their 80s playing sports like tennis and squash. A senior needs to be fit to play these sports and not play them to get fit. These super seniors have been playing such games consistently for several decades.

Swimming is a joy for me. It exercises all parts of the body. Table tennis, another low-risk sport, stimulates the brain, promotes quick thinking and improves hand-eye coordination and reflexes.

Besides physical exercise, seniors also need to stimulate their brain. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku and reading can be done without involving others. Card games like bridge, which I enjoy, stimulate thinking and can also be social events.

Creative hobbies such as art and floral arrangement, for example, have given me a strong sense of achievement.

Watercolour painting by the writer. Watercolour painting by the writer.

I know of friends who found much joy in learning to play a musical instrument after retirement.

I have discovered that local travel can be uplifting. Since the end of the pandemic, I have taken day trips from Petaling Jaya to places like Kuala Selangor, Sekinchan, Kuala Kubu Baru, Tanjung Malim and Klang, towns that I never cared to visit in the past.

Senior citizens should take advantage of the discounts given to seniors for rail travel.

There are small but good museums in Kuala Selangor and Klang which give valuable insight into our local history.

The verdant paddy fields of Sekinchan are a sight to behold. Everyone should see the amazing Sky Mirror, off the Kuala Selangor coast, at least once in their lifetime.

The writer and his wife at Sky Mirror, in Kuala Selangor. The writer and his wife at Sky Mirror, in Kuala Selangor.

There is so much to see in Kuala Kubu Baru, from delightful street art to tiles imaginatively laid out to look three-dimensional. Not to mention the local food outlets. The fast-disappearing traditional kopitiam in some of these places brought back many sweet memories.

Human beings are social creatures who need to interact with others. It costs nothing to say “good morning” to people in my neighbourhood during my morning walks. They always respond with a smile, which makes my day.

In trying to find out what makes us happy in life, Harvard researchers found that staying close to our spouses, family and friends have physical and mental benefits.

Volunteering is a marvellous way to boost happiness. Besides presenting an opportunity to meet like-minded people, it provides a sense of purpose and fulfilment when we give back to society.

Even the ancient Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius got much satisfaction in helping others for their own sake and peace of mind. They showed us that it does not happen by seeking things for ourselves, but by the very opposite – searching for purpose outside of oneself.

Getting old need not be depressing. Indeed, handled properly, it can be the happiest period in one’s life.

Street art and tiles with a 3D effect, in Kuala Kubu Baru.Street art and tiles with a 3D effect, in Kuala Kubu Baru.

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Living

When it’s time to filter out allergens in your car
He was almost bullied out of ballet – now he’s a Juilliard grad
This sofa design aims to raise awareness about rising sea levels
If you want to save water, change your cistern
Drinking to good health: The rise of non-alcoholic wine in Germany
How this frigid US city is a haven in climate change era
From Bach to Wagner: Why more students are tuning in to classical music
Heart and Soul: Tracing my family’s roots
Ask the Plant Doctor! How to achieve optimal soil pH and deal with whiteflies
Take what AI generates with a large dose of salt

Others Also Read