Living peacefully, happily and actively in old age

What is the definition of old age? The World Health Organisation considers age 65 and above as old age. This is the time when the various signs of old age start appearing. Those who are employed retire from their jobs at the age of 60. Suddenly, their hectic life comes to a stop.   While they work, they enjoy many privileges such as higher income in the form of fat salary, power and authority to control people, all of which comes to an end with retirement. All these changes are stressful for seniors, who feel this loss and experience emotional shock. Left with more idle time now, they do not know how to spend time. They get bored easily. They should develop an attitude of being active and keeping good spirits.     This is possible if their mind is not obsessed with negative thoughts of helplessness and declining functions of old age. They should spend time in meeting people and actively exchanging ideas. They should read good books, understanding and exchanging new ideas with others. They should spend at least an hour daily reading as it stimulates the brain and delays deterioration of cognitive functions.   They should not withdraw from outside activities. They should challenge their debilities. For instance, they should walk despite feeling a little pain in the leg. They should see their abilities /strength or what they can do rather than what they cannot do or their debilities. Being preoccupied with debilities leads to low self-esteem and poor self-image.   To reiterate, people who are beyond 60 years can still lead a reasonably peaceful, happy and active life, despite the characteristics of old age. Most old age-related problems occur due to a wrong attitude of looking at ageing negatively.  Instead, seniors should accept it wholeheartedly as a natural phenomenon, be confident that they are still left with their potentials and capabilities which they can use to lead happy and active lives.   Seniors should not brood over their social loss of not being able to connect with as many people as they could in their earlier years and consciously adopt change in lifestyle of a relatively quiet life in old age. That is, see old age in a new and wholesome perspective. Thus, they can add life to years rather than deduct years from their lives.   This blog post is by Serene Urbana (Bengaluru) resident Dr A. Sreekumar Menon.  

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Last week, I was clearing up my attic when I discovered a collection of old photographs. I was drowned in nostalgia as the photographs rekindled memories of some lovely moments from the past. Moments that evoked so many emotions, even after so long. When I hear all the talk about “leaving the past behind,” I think it is too broad a statement. For sometimes, the memories of “sweet somethings” are required to bring back the smiles on worry-creased faces, to turn lines into curves. Why else are alumni bodies so active and school and college reunions such a hit?   I was very much impressed with this wonderful post on social media – “Silence and smile are two powerful tools. While a smile helps to solve many problems, silence helps in avoiding them.” In spite of knowing the truth of this statement, we seldom pay heed to it.   Generally, waiting in queues for our turn at hospitals, labs and banks tends to test our patience. Especially so when we feel that someone has jumped the queue (and that is a universal doubt that lingers!) Just the other day, I had to wait for seven hours to get a few tests done. However, the morose atmosphere of the place was enlivened by the joyous gurgle of laughter of an infant who had accompanied her grandparents.   The forty people awaiting their turn, had smiles on their faces as the toddler made her presence felt, attracting the attention of onlookers. The child kept spreading her infectious smile until she was awake. As the young one stopped entertaining and went off to sleep, the crowd’s patience wore thin, and enquiries about their turn started pouring at the reception desk. Reliving the day, the toddler gave us a little “sweet something” to reminisce.     This blog post is by Serene Indus Valley (Coimbatore) resident Sujatha Sathiamurthy.

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Many of us do not put enough thought into thinking about how much is enough. We make ourselves miserable, endlessly pursuing more. Swinging between the extremes need not be the way to live our lives. The in-between state should be enough.   British psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott pioneered a way to undercut our reckless and never-ending want for more. In his clinical practice, he met parents who felt like failures because their children hadn’t gotten into the best schools or due to arguments around the dinner table or because the house wasn’t tidy enough. He observed that this agony stemmed from excessive expectations.   The concept of “everything” or “nothing” gets undue importance, and “something” gets lost in between. The charming concept of “good enough” was invented to serve as an escape from dangerous ideals. It can be applied generally across life, around work and love too. So how do we look at “good enough”?   A relationship can be good enough even if it has its dark moments. A job may not utilise all our merits and earn us a fortune, but if it gives us real friends, moments of genuine excitement, it can be “good enough”. Every meal need not be a gourmet meal, which does not mean it’s badly done. It’s still good enough. What if you lack passion? At least you share love and care that lasts. It’s good enough.   What if we don’t achieve our goals and dreams, at least we sleep well and spend time with loved ones. That’s good enough.   To remain sane, which has become a coveted state of being, we should follow the middle path or believe that “this is good enough” to help awaken the very best in us. We must make the most of the okay stuff that comes along as well. We should step back and acknowledge in a real way that our lives are good enough.   This blog post is by Serene Pushkar (Chennai) resident Geeta Gopalakrishnan.

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The charm of the unspoken

Birthday musings

The sound of music

Nightingales and cuckoos are well-known and admired for their musical calls. Parrots, European goldfinch, American Robin birds, sparrows, peacocks and many other birds call out in soulful and musical notes. It has been scientifically proven that cows produce more milk when exposed to melodious music. It is also found that music stimulates the brains of birds, animals and man, alike.   The frogs croaking by the pond-side at night have a rhyme and rhythm, and so do the crickets and bumblebees. The constant whining of the mosquitoes may be annoying to our ears, but for them, it is a musical communication, informing each other of the availability of fresh human blood to be syringed out! However, if they “sing” into the ears of a musician, he may take it as a musical challenge posed to him by the mosquitoes. While people find an elephant orchestra amusing, it is believed that the elephants themselves find it calming and derive happiness from it.   Indian botanist Dr Jagdish Chandra Bose has scientifically established the fact that melodious music stimulates the growth of plants while violent music and sudden loud noise stunt their growth. In 1961 students and faculty at Annamalai University studied the effect of music on paddy fields. They found out that the fields exposed to Nagaswaram music of Rajaratnam Pillai every morning over a period of four months grew faster and better. There is a need to apply the melodious music therapy forward in various fields of human life.   Melodious music, whether it is eastern or western, has its effects and needs to be enjoyed within.   Non-melodious music, which is too noisy and uncomfortable, particularly to senior citizens, is preferred by youngsters. In a recent turn of events, researchers from Denmark have made a detailed comparative study of the melodious and non-melodious music and published a report on the effect of music on the protein chains of Amygdaloid bodies of the human brain and DNA changes. The damaging effects of non-melodious music are well brought out in that study.   Music is now being used for therapeutic purposes. Special children such as the ones affected by Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy or autism (to a mild extent) have shown improvement when exposed to Indian melodious music. So, it makes me wonder if we can use this therapy to bring about a positive change in criminals or terrorists? Can we use music in operation theatres, especially in pediatric clinics, to ease the tense atmosphere? Or perhaps to cure psychosomatic diseases particularly in senior citizens who feel lonely?   That’s some food for thought.   This blog post is by Serene Urbana resident Dr Rajaram.

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Listening Vs Reading

The well known saying, “knowledge is power,” is true. A knowledgeable man can meet the challenges of life and become more successful. There are two main sources of gaining knowledge; one is through listening to informative talk or presentations and the other is reading books. Out of the two, reading books is the most important source. We get only a limited opportunity to learn from listening. The information conveyed through a lecture can in no case be as exhaustive as that in a writing.   There are other limitations to learning by listening when compared to learning by reading. Our mind can grasp much faster than we can speak; there is always idle time for the mind while the spoken words get imprinted on it during which the mind wanders. In other words, other alien thoughts pass through our mind which affects the concentration of the mind on the spoken words.   Another snag in listening is that we judge the ideas conveyed by the speaker while listening; this process is called “scheming”. While we scheme, we miss out on what the speaker is communicating. Our attention to the talk also depends upon how interesting the speaker’s presentation is. Even in the case of a sincere listener, it is difficult to hold his attention too long as boredom and other distractions tend to creep in.   When listening, the listener’s role is generally more passive, unless he tries to put himself in the position of a speaker, with empathy, which is a rare skill. When reading, one can adjust to the comfortable pause of reading. While reading, the time is his own. He can reflect on what he reads. Reading allows us to exercise our brain more intensely than listening can permit. It is within our control to keep the reading environment calm. While reading, our mind is in a deep state of concentration, the state of which soothes our mind and keeps us calm and composed, like we experience in meditation.   Reading activates our neural system and slows down the decline of memory due to the ageing process. It also enables us to organise information logically and cultivate patience. The information gathered through systematic reading gets embedded deeply and more clearly in our brain than information stored through listening. It is only through sustained reading habit that one can develop true scholarship.   However, with the advent of computers and the internet, reading has taken a backseat. At this rate, reading will soon become extinct and the material progress of mankind may reverse. The need of the hour is to restore this invaluable human ability by facilitating book reading sessions followed by discussions. Libraries, in particular, should organise such programmes periodically. Along with promoting reading skills, writing habit should also be promoted.   This blog post is by Serene Urbana resident Dr A. Sreekumar Menon.

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Interesting facts on Cricket

Although the World Cup is over, the cricket fever is still on! For lovers of the game, here are a bunch of interesting facts that are hard to believe.   1.Sachin Tendulkar played for Pakistan before India Sachin Tendulkar played for Pakistan before making his debut for India. During a practice match between the arch-rivals at the Brabourne Stadium in 1987, Tendulkar was a substitute fielder for Pakistan.   2. Sanath Jayasuriya has more ODI wickets than Shane Warne Believe it or not, Sanath Jayasuriya has taken more ODI wickets than Shane Warne. While the left-arm Sri Lankan all-rounder has claimed 323 wickets in 445 ODIs, the legendary Australian spinner has taken 293 wickets in 194 matches.   3. Inzamam-ul-Haq claimed a wicket on the first ball he bowled in ODIs Former Pakistani skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq has a unique record of claiming a wicket on the very first ball he bowled in ODIs. On November 24, 1991, he got the wicket of West Indian great Brian Lara at Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad. Lara left the crease after offering a catch to wicket-keeper Moin Khan.   4. Peter Siddle – the only bowler to take a hat-trick on his birthday Australia’s Peter Siddle is the only bowler in the history of cricket to take a hat-trick on his birthday. He did so during a Test match against England at Brisbane on November 25, 2010.   5. Mahela Jayawardene – the only batsman to score a century in WC semi-final, final Mahela Jayawardene is the only batsman to score a century in a World Cup semi-final and final. The former Sri Lankan captain scored a 109-ball 115 against New Zealand in 2007 World Cup semi-final and hit a 88-ball unbeaten 103 against India in the final of 2011 World Cup.   6. Wasim Akram’s highest score in Test cricket is higher than Sachin Tendulkar’s Legendary Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram’s highest score in Test cricket is 257. On October 20, 1996, Akram scored an unbeaten 257 against Zimbabwe at Sheikhupura. It is also the highest score by a number eight batsman. On the other hand, Sachin’s highest score in the longest version of the game is an unbeaten 248. The Indian maestro scored a double century against hosts Bangladesh at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka in December 2004.   7.Courtney Walsh remained unbeaten maximum number of times It is a fact. Walsh, the former West Indian fast bowler, played 132 Tests. In 185 innings, he scored just 936 runs at an average of 7.54. However, he remained unbeaten 61 times and his top score was an unbeaten 30 (against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 24, 1988).   8. Richard Stokes witnessed Jim Laker, Anil Kumble taking 10 wickets Richard Stokes watched only two Tests in his life. At the age of 10, he witnessed Jim Laker taking all 10 wickets against Australia at Old Trafford in 1956. Forty-three years later, he was at the Feroze Shah Kotla ground in Delhi where Anil Kumble took all the 10 wickets against Pakistan.   9. Leslie Hylton is the only cricketer to be hanged for murder Former West Indian pacer Leslie Hylton, who claimed 16 wickets in 6 Tests at an average of 26.12, is the only Test cricketer to be hanged. He was hanged on May 17, 1955 in Jamaica on charges of murdering his wife.   10. Vinod Kambli’s Test average is better than Sachin’s. Kambli scored 1084 runs in 17 Tests at an average of 54.20, while his childhood friend Sachin Tendulkar scored 15,921 runs in 200 matches at an average of 53.78.   11. Chris Gayle is the only batsman to hit a six off the first ball of a Test West Indian opener Chris Gayle is the only player in the history of cricket who hit a six off the very first ball of a Test match. The hard-hitting Caribbean batsman achieved this feat against Bangladesh at Mirpur in 2012. The bowler was debutant off-spinner Sohag Gazi.   12. MS Dhoni has not scored a century outside Asia Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the holder of many records. One of them is that he has not scored a century outside Asia. Mahi has scored six Test centuries and ten ODI tons, but all of them are scored in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.   13. Lala Amarnath is the only bowler to dismiss Bradman hit wicket Amazing! Lala Amarnath holds the unique distinction of being the only bowler in the history of Test cricket to dismiss Sir Don Bradman courtesy of a hit-wicket. It happened at Brisbane in 1948.   12. Gavaskar was out off the first ball of a Test match thrice Sunil Gavaskar, the former Indian skipper and the first man to score 10,000 Test runs, was dismissed first ball of a match thrice. Gavaskar was out to Geoff Arnold at Edgbaston in 1974, to Malcom Marshall at Kolkata in 1983 and to Imran Khan at Jaipur in 1986. Interestingly, Sunny shares this unique record with Conrade Hunte, Chris Gayle, Sanath Jayasuriya – who were dismissed for zero on the very first ball of a match three times.   13. Sir Donald Bradman hit only 6 Sixes Legendary Australian batsman Sir Don Bradman hit just six sixers in his entire career. Sir Don hit five sixes against England and one against India. Apart from hitting two fives in his career, he smashed 618 fours in Test cricket.   This blog post is by Serene Adinath resident Dr A Sankaranarayanan.

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