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Northern EYE by Bob Kimmins: Ageing with energy

When American Dwight Hauff turned 100, he decided to celebrate at work.

Published on December 1, 2007

Northern EYE by Bob Kimmins: Ageing with energy

Bob Kimmins

In his birthday speech at Hauff Sporting Goods, he said, "It has been a pleasure to work as long as I have. I plan to go on living, and definitively keep working."

Hauff's career performance makes long and impressive reading, but he still has some work to do before breaking records.

In the US, the oldest known workers include 101-year-old Ray Jenkins, who rose daily at 4am to work the fairground at the Champlain Valley Exposition; consulting engineer Milton Ward Garland, who is still going strong at 102; and Ray Crist, who gave up teaching at 104, but continued working on research and academic papers.

Shunning retirement and staying active has been a growing trend among senior citizens, resulting in better health, longevity, productivity and a better quality of life. In Britain, the number of over-60s finding new employment rose by 11 per cent last year to approximately 10 per cent of the country's pensioners.

While the older generation remains active and independent it is contributing to society rather than relying on it. With this in mind, the British DIY firm B&Q started employing older personnel during the 1980s and their oldest employee to date is 91-year-old Sidney Prior. B&Q claim that an age-diverse workforce pays dividends through customer relations and work attitude.

Jane Basley of the supermarket chain Sainsbury's agrees, "People of that age bring a wealth of experience and maturity to their work, and their focus on customer service will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the shopping experience and help to drive sales."

Fun and games

According to the World Health Organisation, the number of people aged over 60 will have doubled worldwide between 2000 and 2025 to 1.2 billion. And not all of them want to work until they drop, especially when they have the chance of retirement.

However, achieving a good quality of life relies largely on maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle, and there is a growing awareness of the need to avail more leisure pursuits for the elderly.

Older Active People is a northern English organisation that arranges trips, film shows, lunch clubs, chair-based exercise, football match excursions, walking and theatre groups, and even holidays.

They also recognise the benefits of inter-generational activities, where older folk have the opportunity to visit local schools and exchange ideas and experiences with much younger people.

Larger associations such as the International Council on Active Ageing and the IDEA Health and Fitness Association have focused on the older person's contribution to society while living life to the full.

And recently published research in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that an impressive proportion of Americans in their 80s were still sexually active.

It's a fact that a good sex life reduces stress and promotes a sense of belonging. Both in their mid 80s, Jack and Elizabeth Menager have enjoyed an active sex life together for almost 60 years.

Jack says, "[Sex] gives a person relief on any burdens or problems." Elizabeth adds, "I think it's important. It just makes you feel close."

Growing older in Thailand

In Thai tradition, old people are thought to be dependent on the younger generation, but as in many Western countries, there are fewer youngsters with less time to carry out the tasks involved.

Furthermore, the ratio of the elderly in the Kingdom is expected to rise from 9.2 per cent of the population to 11.4 per cent between 2000 and 2010, with almost 200,000 of these individuals living in Chiang Mai province.

Hence, the Chiang Mai Elderly Service Centre was set up to help the aged maintain an active service to society and remain independent through a lifelong learning process.

Located in the Wat Gate area of downtown Chiang Mai, this Thai wooden house and surrounding grounds were donated for public use by Khun Piyamal Chulakan, and the Department of Public Welfare opened the centre in 1988.

Since then, 605 members with diversified educational, social and economic status and varied experience have registered, have elected their committee of 15 persons from within the group.

Among the services, counselling and guidance on adapting to a changing world are provided together with healthcare, medical checks and physical therapy.

Daily activities include prayers, meditation, exercise, singing, trips and games, while knowledge sharing, interaction and learning are achieved through lecturers, guest speakers and occupational therapy.

The Chiang Mai Elderly Service Centre has begun to move with the Western world in taking steps to keep old people active, and preventing the aged from being seen as an economic liability or a burden on society. The centre can be contacted on (053) 243 801.

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