Channel News Asia recently published a commentary about how “tiredness of life” is a common experience among seniors. I love this article because it relates to how health is a state of complete well-being and not just an absence of disease. It also shed perspective to what it is like to grow old, which is something that we don’t talk enough about in Singapore.
We definitely can do better when it comes to ageing in Singapore. Having said that, I do want to highlight that we are in fact already doing very well. This is in part due to having one of the best healthcare in the world!
I am not saying that what we have is good enough. It isn’t. Ageing is still perceived to be grim, and there is a lot more work that can done to improve quality of life for seniors. Nonetheless, we must give merits where it is due.
What is successful ageing?
When looking at “successful ageing” most people will measure it through Rowe and Kahn’s model introduced in 1987. Their framework highlights three essential elements that characterise the aging process: the avoidance of disease and disability, the maintenance of high physical and cognitive functioning, as well as an active engagement with life.
Avoidance of disease and disease-related disabilities
At its core, successful aging is about minimising the risk and impact of chronic diseases and disabilities that can hinder an individual’s well-being. In Singapore, the top causes of years of healthy life lost due to disability aka top causes of having to live with a disability are:
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Muscle and joint disorders
- Mental disorders.
High physical and cognitive functioning
Being able to avoid diseases is not good enough. World Health Organisation defines health as a complete state of well-being and not merely an absence of disease. Therefore, when it comes to successful ageing, it is important to maintain a high level of physical and cognitive functioning.
This includes preserving mobility, strength, and sensory abilities, as well as cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.
Active engagement with life
There are three types of well-being that are identified in World Health Organisation’s definition of health. They are physical well-being, mental well-being, and also social well-being.
With these dimensions in mind, successful ageing must include social interactions, participation in meaningful activities as well as a pursuit of one’s interests and goals. All of these will come together to contribute to a sense of purpose and involvement.
Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
By now you should be able to appreciate what it means to achieve a complete state of well-being. When you’re healthy, you have the energy and vitality to engage in activities you love, pursue your goals, maintain social relationships, stay intellectually stimulated, which all ultimately lead to having a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life.
How is Singapore doing when it comes to successful ageing?
Over 25% of seniors in Singapore achieve successful ageing. While this may seem low, only 8.5% of Europeans (sampled across 14 countries) manage to attain successful ageing!
In other words, older adults in Singapore have a dramatically higher quality of life than their European counterparts!
This should should come as no surprise because Singapore ranked number one in both life expectancy and also have the lowest Disability-Adjusted Life Years in the world.
Ageing in Singapore
I appreciate that the vast majority of seniors do not achieve successful ageing. As mentioned earlier in this post, there is still a lot that we can do for seniors in Singapore.
If we agree with WHO’s definition of health as well as Rowe and Kahn’s conceptualisation of ageing well, it should be clear that most of the work has to be done in our younger years.
The time to start is now.
Remember, musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain and neck pain are major contribution to loss of healthy years! These conditions are highly treatable. They are also aspects of your health and well-being that I, as a chiropractor, can help you with.
Aches and pains aside, it is also important to participate in regular exercise as well as to eat a healthy diet. Health Promotion Board has aggressively campaign for Singaporeans to pick up health habits, and is still offering incentives to encourage exercise!
How you choose your life now will inevitably influence your quality of life in your later years.
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Frustrated by the lack of results-driven and ethical chiropractic clinics in Singapore, Chiropractor Jesse Cai found Square One Active Recovery to deliver meaningful and sustainable pain solutions.
Our goal? To make our own services redundant to you.