These and other matters were put forward at a recent gathering of seniors in Lisbon. Held at the Ismaili Centre, Seniors in Movement is a pilot programme that takes an integrated approach to the needs of the elderly. Seeking to stimulate the mind, body and soul, it combined a thought provoking seminar-workshop with physical exercise, meditation, a nutritious meal and dance-fuelled celebration.
“Today I came to this ‘Seniors in Movement' programme,” said Julficar bhai with pride. “I've been a Mukhi Saheb; I was a member of the Council. Now I am 82 years old. I don't participate in programmes for seniors, but today, this is different.”
Looking at ways to care more effectively for the aged is a major priority of the Jamati institutions. In keeping with guidance from Mawlana Hazar Imam, the Ismaili Council for Portugal is working to establish measurable indicators of quality of life that incorporate both material and spiritual aspects of health and wellness. The integrated approach of Seniors in Movement is being studied as a model, whose findings will hopefully contribute to even more effective programmes in the future.
“Being an elder is about assuming the responsibility to pass on our experience, to safeguard the ethics and morals of our grandchildren,” said Amir, one of the programme participants. “But before teaching, we have to learn.”
“It's not that, what I learned in young age is not important,” he explained. “But the type of speech and language and how things are done in this new time is different – we have to catch up.”
As people live longer lives, it is important that they continue to feel they have purpose and are able to make a meaningful contribution in their old age. Amir pointed out that one way is for grandparents to be involved with their grandchildren. “My granddaughter of 10 years old, teaches me to work on computers, and in turn I read her stories from the Institute of Ismaili Studies curriculum. I was a trader all my life and let me tell you, that's a great deal!”
Following the seminar, participants took part in a gym class led by a gymnastics teacher who taught them exercises that are especially suited to the elderly.
The trainer explained that as the body ages, workouts should be moderated and less strenuous. “Nevertheless, we must continue to exercise our muscles to ensure a good quality of life,” he said. The fitness session was complimented with a discussion about nutrition and the benefits of a balanced diet that led to a healthy lunch of mainly vegetarian and fat free fare.
In the afternoon, a theatre session had been organised by the National Conciliation and Arbitration Board around mediation and dispute resolution. The actors in the play were also seniors, and participants found ways to relate the concepts to their own life experiences.
“In my days, I used to drive a truck across the jungle in Mozambique – I met so many different people, many different cultures,” said Sadru bhai, a participant. “On the road I came across so many issues, that sometimes I had to improvise solutions just to get to the end of the day. That taught me to be open-minded and to be tolerant to other people's needs.”
“That's mediation,” he pointed out, adding “I could tell you stories that you wouldn't believe!”
The programme ended with music, dance and a laughter therapy yoga session. At the end of the full and busy day, the picture of seniors dancing, laughing and cheering once again prompted the question: At what age is a person really supposed to be called ‘old'?