How I Remain Resilient As I Age

A column written by Dr William Wan, Senior Consultant of the Singapore Kindness Movement


I am 77 and I accept the reality that I have aged. My energy level is not the same as when I was 73. At 73 I did a hundred push-ups to raise money for charity. Today, I am not able to do that.

As I write, I am suffering from a case of pinched nerve. It is taking a tad longer to heal but I am taking it in my stride. I am also suffering from MDS or Myelodysplastic Syndromes, a pre-leukemia condition. I am not about to die, but I might in about 10 years.

I accept the reality that as I age, my health issues multiply.

But I am still fit enough to continue to contribute whatever I can.  Hence I am not retired to wallow in self-pity. On the contrary, I am refired to live purposefully. I remain resilient because I choose to have the following mindset.

  1. I choose to look at everything positively. A positive mindset is a growth mindset.  A growth mindset is a flexible mindset. I view health and other challenges as opportunities to grow my resilience as I adapt to new realities in the changes that come with ageing. I focus on what I can control and not on what I can’t.
  2. I exercise regularly.  I do stretches and more cardiovascular exercises like walking my 10k steps 5 times a week.  Some tension exercises are good for maintaining muscle mass to retain strength, flexibility, and balance. They help fuel my energy level in spite of my age.
  3. I eat healthily. I am not a foodie and I eat to live.  These days I am eating less carbo and sugary food.  I am on an intermittent fast where I skip breakfast – it has conditioned my body to expect only two meals a day.  My diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains and nuts, supplemented by vitamins and minerals.
  4. I live pro-socially surrounded by scores of friends from all walks of life. Maintaining my social connections through social media, I am able to reach out to hundreds of friends, who are engaged with me regularly. I am also keeping in touch with family and friends through my ministry in churches and the public space, in chat groups and small groups.
  5. I am a life-long learner, full of curiosity and wonder.  I stay mentally active through reading, watching documentaries and thought-provoking movies, listening to podcasts and videos, and engaging in meaningful conversations about controversial subjects. I love a game of scrabble, and other word games, and enjoy writing and speaking on matters of the heart.
  6. I have an attitude of gratitude.  This is my secret of general contentment where I enjoy what I already have rather than crave for what I do not have.  I start my morning by walking my 10k steps while listening to 15 minutes of songs of thankfulness and 30 minutes of uplifting talks and sermons.  I contemplate and give thanks to God for people I know and pray for world peace and purposeful interactions for the day before me. This is the way I meditate and receive the energy I need for the rest of the day.
  7. I let passing things pass.  It is the awareness that all things pass – nothing is permanent, all things are transient – that I need to let go and not be attached to anything that is negative, unnecessary, or distractive.  I have a singular purpose in life, namely, to love God and my neighbour.  Anything that does not contribute to my purpose is superfluous. I learned to forgive, let go of any resentment and other negative emotions and focus on the positive energy that contributes to a better world.

This is how I remain resilient as I age.  My positive mindset and value-based habits of other-centredness or kindness enable me to accept and adapt to changes, bounce back from adversities to continue to flourish.

Note. The following studies collectively emphasize the importance of maintaining physical health, mental well-being, social connections, adaptability, and a sense of purpose for promoting resilience in older adults.

  1. Adaptability and Positive Outlook:
  1. Physical Activity:
  1. Diet and Nutrition:
      • Sofi, F., Abbate, R., Gensini, G. F., & Casini, A. (2010). Accruing evidence on benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet on health: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 92(5), 1189-1196.
      • Chrysohoou, C., Panagiotakos, D. B., Pitsavos, C., Das, U. N., & Stefanadis, C. (2004). Adherence to the Mediterranean diet attenuates inflammation and coagulation process in healthy adults: The ATTICA Study. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 44(1), 152-158.
  1. Social Connections:
      • Waldinger, R. J., & Schulz, M. S. (2010). What’s love got to do with it? Social functioning, perceived health, and daily happiness in married octogenarians. Psychology and Aging, 25(2), 422-431.
      • Glass, T. A., De Leon, C. M., Bassuk, S. S., & Berkman, L. F. (2006). Social engagement and depressive symptoms in late life: Longitudinal findings. Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 61(6), S276-S282.
  1. Mental Well-being:
  1. Purpose and Goals:

This article was contributed by Dr William Wan, 77, the previous General Secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement. Passionate about making a difference to Singapore, Dr Wan contributes to several non-profit organisations and is also an advocate of active ageing. He sums up his journey thus far as such:

“A life lived in multiple chapters – from adversarial litigation to mediating kindness. Now breaking the silver ceiling with spring in the autumn of my life.”