In a week dedicated to Older Persons in South Africa, we wondered: are there really any secrets to keeping quality of life intact even as the years do their damage? We spoke to several senior citizens who said: age is nothing but a number.
Time messes with your body. There’s no getting away from that.
But there’s no inevitability about cardigans, slippers, erectile dysfunction and digestive problems as you get older.
Mick Jagger is 64, for instance, and he’s still bounding around the stage like a teenager. Rod Stewart is a newish dad, and he’s 62.
Glenn Close is a leading Hollywood actress at 60 – and there’s nothing decrepit about a mind that learns lines, spends 14-hour days on set, and still has a life.
There’s no elixir, though, that only the rich and famous have access to. Health24 writer Tandeka Bafo spoke to three people she admires - Ncinci Malahlane (65), Nelly Johnson (76) and Shaw Languza (66) to find out what they believed the secret was:
Think about what you put in your mouth
- Eat your breakfast, according to all three of them
- Have a cup of herbal tea with brown sugar, they all say
- Eat your vegetables every day, adds Nelly.
- Your meat should be grilled and no oils should be used, says Nelly. In fact, she does not eat meat at all.
- Drink eight glasses of water every day, says Shaw
- “Drinking, drugs and smoking: move away from these bad influences and your health will go a long way”, says Ncinci.
All three of Tandeka’s interviewees are still working, and there may be something in that – who hasn’t heard about cases where the onset of decreptitude neatly coincided with retirement?
Of course, you don’t need to be in a formal job to keep working. If you’re passionate about gardening, you might find the Clivia Society is desperate for a volunteer secretary; if you’ve got a longing to make the world a better place, there are hundreds of valuable organisations who’d welcome your involvement.
Nelly, for instance, divides her time between two “real” jobs: one is an organisation called Mosaic, where she is a counsellor; and the other is the Paarl Magistrate Court, where she writes out interdicts. In between, her home has served as a refuge for abandoned children, and also for abused women and children.
Ncinci is a cleaner at a busy company in Cape Town; and Shaw is a reverend of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, so is always busy with church matters.
Keep active – in both body and mind
- Ncinci walks to the train station every day to get to work. She says “walking keeps my body in top shape”.
- “Reading books and newspapers every day helps to keep your mind in top shape and you gain more knowledge”, says the Reverend.
- “Read the Bible and go to church. It keeps you young,” says Nelly, who is a Jack-of-all trades at her church.
There is a Xhosa saying: kuguga othandayo. Simply translated, it means “it’s by choice that you get old”.
Take care of yourself, and you will grow old gracefully.
(Tandeka Bafo, Health24, October 2007)