Being a GP in Delhi, who often gets called to provide care for senior citizens does not make my work totally about medical prescriptions and formulations as most people imagine it. Part of my GP practice involves providing home health care, where I see my patients/clients in their homes- necessity since many of them are 80 years and older. This helps me get not just a medical history, but a rich weave of social, professional, family, and life stories. This information and the patterns that I observe in their daily routine are critical to many medical decisions I am trusted to make for them. Getting a holistic understanding of the individual I am responsible for makes for medicine as it is intended to be practiced.
Many seniors live with long time caregivers (not family, mind you) who assist them with their daily needs. In my experience, those that have the best quality of life, have continued to engage themselves both mentally and physically as the years went by.I think of 95 year old Mr. Gupta (name changed) as a great example for this. Mr. Gupta steps out for an early morning walk at his local park a 40 year old routine. In the past few years, he started taking his caregiver with him, due to an occasional instability, while walking.The rest of his morning routine includes reading the papers and staying informed about current events. In the afternoons, he goes to the club to play bridge, and enjoys a chat with fellow players. Evenings are usually dinner at home and television.
An easy retired life? It’s not as simple as it sounds. The work to achieve this level of independence in later years starts many decades earlier. I suggest, in one’s 40s. For many of us, this is the time after a busy 20s, 30s, spent building a career and or looking after children. It is the time we can turn to nurture ourselves more fully.
I’m going to list only one form of preparing investing in your future aging -exercise. Walking, yoga, gym, dancing, and swimming- all these are great options to improve your fitness. The benefits of exercise include improvement in arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. You may not have any of these today, but you must prevent, or at least minimize their impact, tomorrow.
As it so happens, not all our bodies are similar. You simply cannot leap into exercise and expect it to benefit you without taking to your doctor about at least the no-nos. I suggest consulting with your doctor, before starting an exercise program or if you’re planning to increase the level of your physical activity. This is an important safety check and should not be missed.
So there you have the foundation of what I call the Fitness Saving Plan. Don’t neglect it just like it is prudent to start a financial retirement plan early in your career, so must one do a similar investment in fitness, with a goal to stay walking, well into your 90s. Nothing less is acceptable, is it?