Johannesburg was privileged to play host to the 2nd World Congress on Healthy Ageing from 30 July – 2 August at the Sandton Convention Centre. The first Congress took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2012 and was sponsored by the World Health Organisation.
“I was delighted to be invited to share the platform with CEO of The Refirement Network, Lynda Smith, at the Congress,” says Kim Potgieter, Certified Financial Planner and Director at Chartered Wealth Solutions. “I am grateful for every opportunity to share the message that we share with our clients during our Life Planning Meetings: retirement does not have to signal an end; it can be the beginning of a whole new life, if you are prepared to shift your perspective – retiring to something rather than from it.”
Of course, living a full life in retirement has much to do with physical well-being, and this was a dominant theme at
the Congress. Keeping in physical shape at any age was clearly illustrated in the introduction, as a local choir of elderly citizens entertained delegates with song and dance – an inspiring start to what proved to be an informative and engaging Congress. It was moving to see special guest and speaker, Councillor Nonceba Molwele, Mayoral Committee for Health and Social Development, City of Johannesburg, joining in the spirited singing and dancing.
Sportsmen finding significance in retirement
Retired sportsmen, Joel Stransky, Marks Maponyane and Lucas Radebe, were interviewed by Dr Ali Bacher. Each shared their secret of a successful transition into ‘retirement’ (for a sportsman, this is the shift from career success and the adulation of fans, to relative obscurity). Each indicated the following were essential ingredients:
- Plan a second career before the first one ends
- Continue to keep in physical shape
- Find a purpose that gives your life meaning
All three emphasised a positive attitude and preparation for transitioning with greater ease. “What is behind is behind,” said Stransky, “the past is the past.” Maponyane echoed this sentiment in his words, “I have always felt that what is coming is more important than what is gone.”
Radebe spoke of his passion for charitable work. “I realised that I was an example – I was blessed to have played football and now I can touch people in a different way.” Radebe is extensively involved in supporting and visiting children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
Involvement in community bears multiple benefits
German researcher, Janina Stiel, shared her research on retirees adopting their neighbourhood, and forming teams to tackle various aspects of need: cleanliness, security, conflict. They met together and worked on solutions, visiting trouble spots as part of their campaign. This positive enterprise lent them a sense of giving back to their community and an opportunity to interact with like-minded citizens – both essential ingredients in a significant second half of life.
Stiel’s findings revealed that quality of life is dictated by objective living conditions and subjective attitudes. Feeling appreciated for their efforts to improve their neighbourhoods, learning new skills and strengthening their social networks were all positive outcomes of these community collaborations.
Caring for the aged mandatory
Dr James McNally shared that his research revealed that family units are essential supports for the aged – taking responsibility for the care and wellbeing of aged members of families is mandatory, not an option. “We have an absolute obligation to your elders,” he said, “accept them and make them matter.” He explained that demographic transitions and investing in children, thereby making families smaller, have had the unintended consequence of our cutting the older person out of the family. Dr McNally challenged the audience to consider their view of ageing and the aged: a gift or a burden?
The elderly do not want to live alone, isolated from their family. They do not wish to be ghettoed with other older people. Successful ageing, Dr McNally said, is ultimately about expectations, and the assurance of care, of privacy and autonomy is crucial. Families and family support systems need to be on hand to offer ongoing contact and interactions. This demands sacrifice, planning, commitment and patience on both sides of the ageing contract.
Future trends shape the ageing experience
Futurist, Dr Graeme Codrington, shared trends that would revolutionise our experience of retirement and ageing into the future (particularly regarding technology). “Life expectancy has doubled on global average in the last century, and we know we live in an ageing world: a thousand people are turning one hundred every day.” Despite these statistics, the big news, said Codrington, is not that people are being older longer, but that we all want to be younger longer. “So, don’t start thinking about your health when you are old – teenagers should be considering how they will age healthily.”
Codrington believes that smart devices with functions such as fitness trackers, and chips embedded into our bodies to monitor the health of our organs are examples of how technology will support longevity. “Robot exoskeletons will enable those with paralysis to function or walk more easily. The ability to augment our bodies has introduced the era of transhumanism – there is almost no distinction between the human and the machine that keeps that human active. 3-D printing may mean we no longer need donors for genetic parts,” says Codrington. Analysis for personalised medication will be done online – as may the printing out of the medication!
Tim Noakes’ real meal plan for longevity
You have no doubt heard about Tim Noakes’ about-turn regarding the best diet for healthy human beings. If you have not followed the debates in the media, here is a summary of his approach – one he shared at the WCHA.
William Banting followed a radical eating plan in the 19th century, and now lends his name to this high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
After the success experienced by Banting on this low-carb, high-fat eating plan, the “banting” diet became the standard treatment for weight loss in major European and North American medical schools. But in 1959 it was excluded from all the major medical and nutritional textbooks.
Banting merely discovered what we were designed to eat: what early humans ate 200,000 years ago. Respected biologists, geneticists, paleoanthropologists and theorists believe that human genes have hardly changed since human beings began their journey on earth. Were the entire human history put into one day, we have only been eating cereals and grains for five minutes and sugar for five seconds.
The common misconception
The idea that eating fat, especially saturated fat, is bad for you and is a primary cause of high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity, is based on a flawed study by Ancel Keys in 1953. The truth is that a diet high in carbohydrates, particularly refined carbohydrates and sugar, is the cause of obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Vegetable (seed) oils and their derivatives (margarine) are a contributing factor to heart disease, though manufacturers tell us the exact opposite.
But don’t we need carbohydrates to survive?
Of the three macronutrients in our diet (protein, fat, carbohydrates), only carbohydrates are non-essential for human life. We cannot function properly for more than a few days without eating fat; and a few months without an adequate protein intake. But avoiding carbohydrate has no short- or long-term effects on humans, other than weight loss. While we need a constant supply of glucose, it can be produced by the liver from fat and protein and doesn’t need to be ingested as carbohydrate in our diets.
The Cholesterol Myth
There is much evidence to support the fact that cholesterol is not the culprit in heart disease. Like a policeman being at the scene of the crime being blamed for the crime – cholesterol will only adhere to a ‘leaking’ artery wall damaged by inflammation – to protect you. Living on carbs and sugar means those arteries remain inflamed. Sugar is the most inflammatory thing you can put into your mouth, and will continue to rob you of perfect health. Grains are turned into sugar by the body. A high carbohydrate diet always fosters inflammation in the body, not only in the arteries but brain, liver, digestive tract and joints, leading to many chronic diseases today, supposedly ‘incurable’. Many people report relief from all of these in a relatively short time after adopting the Banting lifestyle.
While Professor Tim Noakes pronounced “carbogeddon” for those who continue to indulge in carbohydrates, his fellow panellist, Professor Willie Mollentze, encouraged balance and moderation in making choices that would impact our health.
Prof Wayne Derman, a Retire Successfully Retirementor, also featured on the programme: “Growing older while staying young without Botox, Prozac or Viagra!” You can read his blogs on our Retire Successfully website: www.retiresuccessfully.co.za.