I figured out a few things in 2014 about how to improve life as I get older, which I aim to implement this year. So here are some suggested New Year’s Resolutions for older people: a list of what to do (more and less of) in 2015.
- Talk more, text less
We don’t talk as much as we used to. Instead of speaking to each other, we type quick messages on our phones, full of typos and bad grammar. They’re called Instant Messages, implying that they’re time-savers. In fact, a lot of time gets spent thumb-typing on tiny keyboards and staring at screens.
I miss phone calls. I miss hearing people’s voices. I miss having conversations. What’s worse, I fear that texting instead of calling is particularly bad for older people, that our vocal chords will pay the price of this silent communication. Flouting the use-it-or-lose-it rule apparently can make voices raspy and croaky. Especially mature voices of those who live alone and don’t have many people to talk to all day.
So I’ve resolved to make more phone calls in 2015. After all the time I’ve spent hunched over my phone typing SMSs, I enjoy kicking back and chatting. And instead of sending texts I’ve started leaving voice messages, and am encouraging my family and friends to do the same. The novelty will probably wear off soon, but so far it’s been fun listening to these recorded messages. You don’t just get the words but the mood as well.
(Please note that I’m not touting for Zuckerburg, the Facebook mogul who recently bought the biggest free messaging service. Whatsapp allows you to leave voice or even video messages in addition to SMSs, but if you don’t want Facebook sucking up more of your personal data there are several alternatives that are also free.)
- Stand more, sit less
One of the biggest health revelations of 2014 for me was the research showing the benefits of standing over sitting. The latest study on human femur bones from archaeological digs blames our evolution from mobile hunter-gatherers to more sedentary farmers for making our bones more breakable.
Sitting in a car or in front of a desk is not what we have evolved to do. We are not challenging our bones with enough loading, predisposing us to have weaker bones so that, as we age, situations arise where bones are breaking when, previously, they would not have.
– Professor Colin Shaw, Cambridge University, co-author of study in National Academy of Sciences Journal, December 2014
The take-out message of the new studies seems to be this: exercise is good for you and so is standing up, while too much sitting actually shortens your life span. So I’ve resolved to do more standing. I made myself a makeshift standing desk since the ones I’ve seen online are rather expensive. However, I must confess that I don’t use it consistently. My policy now is to try to stand whenever possible, like when talking on the phone.
I console myself that any bit of time I spend on my feet is an improvement on all my hours in a chair. The important thing is that my attitude towards standing has shifted. I no longer see it as a hassle if I have to stand in a queue or at a function, but rather an opportunity to clock up more healthy standing time.
- Remember more, photograph less
First came the new word Selfie, and now there’s a gadget to help take photos of yourself called a Selfie Stick. Or as Indonesian devotees call it, the Narcissism Staff. Yet another blow to human interaction, its function is to obviate the need to ask a stranger to take your group photo.
Never in history have people taken so many photos, now that we’re rarely without our phones. We take pictures of ourselves, our children, grandchildren and pets, of our meals, parties and travels. Since we often worry about memory loss as we age, I noted with interest a new study showing that the more photos you take, the less you remember about the experience.
Another big problem with taking lots of photos is what to do with them all. They hog memory on phones and hard drives. Even if you spend time organizing, deleting and backing up, then what? Will we ever look at them all again? As for all the hard copy photos from the previous century, what will we do with all our pictures stored and ignored in albums and boxes?
Since taking fewer photos may help me remember my experiences better, and I’m already drowning in photos I don’t revisit, I have resolved to take less photos this year. Which will mean less photos to organize later. I hope it may help with that being-in-the-moment thing that I’m also working on.
- Give more, buy less
This last New Year’s Resolution combines charity with de-cluttering. I’m going to try and make less trips to malls this year. And when I do buy something new, ideally from a small local shop, I’ll aim to dispense with something old. If it’s still in good condition I’ll give it away. If not, it will go for recycling. I used to find it hard to part with possessions, but the older I get the less I feel I need. With age I find I care more about being than having.