The online course Strategies for Successful Ageing, available via the FutureLearn website, has helped Julie McCulloch rediscover her zest for living
Ageing is a hot topic just now, and this course is spot on trend. The approach is holistic, multi-sensory and friendly, so you can have a taster or a gourmet menu. It’s suitable for both men and women. Successful ageing can begin in the cradle and any time after that so, whatever your age, try this MOOC (massive open online course).
The importance of mental health is at the heart of the course, so I need to describe a little bit of why and how I had got to what I call the ‘settee scenario’ – watching telly, drinking wine, reading detective novels. There had been a lot of bereavements and grief in my life, of siblings and friends, as well as some personal life-threatening illnesses. I had become a reluctant retiree. Unlike many others I’m lucky enough to have close love and support from family and friends, so I wasn’t too bad and rather ignored the emptiness of my life. Feeling tired and old, bit by bit, I narrowed the tramlines of my routine, removed myself from various groups and activities, and ‘settee scenario’ became the norm.
Fortunately, my brain was ringing alarm signals, and I benefitted from six weekly sessions of cognitive behavioural therapy combined with transactional analysis. Later – by chance, or my guardian angel? – I was introduced by the U3A to this online Strategies for Successful Ageing course.
We were thrown in at the deep end with a few carefully worded questions and I was a bit shocked to discover my ageist attitudes right from the start. I hadn’t considered myself to be a prejudiced person, but there it was, proven. Why? Because I was judging myself and other people according to age. By the time I had finished the course I had rediscovered energy, enthusiasm and zest for living, my personal perceptions of ageing having changed markedly.
Through the course one looks closely at the quality of one’s life. Strategies are used to help alleviate and manage stress, worry, anxiety, depression and fear. Mindfulness is explained, and by exploring my personal circumstances I became much more energised and optimistic. Did you know that, far from shrinking, your brain can develop as you get older? Neuroplasticity offers hope and optimism, and by practising multi-sensory activities, physical exercise and sensible diet you also feed your brain.
This course really encouraged me to make much more of a professional effort to organise my diary. I used to be very fond of music, both listening to and making it. I’d got rid of the piano. Now, U3A Ukulele group, here I come. I’m playing golf regularly again – still having lessons, of course – and I welcome new play mates. Bridge, great for exercising the memory and the social skills, is a terrific learning curve. The U3A Bird Watching group has introduced me to more than birds. My wonderful book group encourages reading of different genres and discussion. Online Philosophy challenges the brain. Regular and frequent swimming helps mental and physical stimulation. Gardening has become therapy not toil (almost). My community service is acting as facilitator for children and grand-children’s get-togethers, and generational intelligence is fulfilled and fulfilling. Yippee!
‘Our ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life – all the way to the very end.’ (Being Mortal by Atul Gawande)
Thank you, Dorking U3A, I’m staying connected and feeling a lot younger.