Nostalgic Romanticism or Changing Reality?
Is it the queer irony of our times? We are more in-tune with the idea of health but are less healthy. We have more conveniences and comforts in our lives but less time. We have greater access to means but less intent to avail. Could we be a living contradiction to what we profess to be our reality?
There is definitely a generational shift happening around us…and not of the desirable kind. Yes, every generation feels they grew up in a better time (and were better) than the current lot and one may be prone to dismissing this assumption as mere nostalgic romanticism. But a recent experience brought this thought to the fore and I feel compelled to share it. It exposed a lot about the fitness levels of our youth and should not only be a cause for worry but also serve as a cue to reassess validity of our perceptions.
The Generational Gap.
On my recent trip to Meghalaya, we visited the Living Roots Bridges (the longest double decker bridge) at Nongthymmai-Tyrna, East Khasi Hills. The visit to and fro meant approx. 7000 relentless steps, no mean feat I must say. What jumped out during the experience was the difference I observed in the approach and stamina of people in 20-30 age group viz a viz those well above their 40s. Be it while going up or coming down, the younger lot was finding the journey way tougher – more frequent breaks, labored breathing, walking sticks for support etc. Some looked like they would simply collapse. On the other hand, the 45+ age group was able to maintain a steady rhythm for large parts, taking short breaks periodically to enable fellow travelers to catch up.
It was a reinforcement (and a reality check) of what I have been sensing for some time now, regarding fitness levels of two generations. The young, with age and (supposed) strength on their side were finding the challenge tougher and were struggling to keep up with the steadier, older lot.
This was not nostalgic romanticism but the reality of our times playing out.
Though lifestyles have changed for everyone over the last 20+ years, what in all likelihood holds the older generation in better stead is the more physically active lifestyle they lead in their formative years and the habits they inculcated during that time, which may have diminished somewhat but yet remain ingrained. Of course, the unfit older segment in metros is a big number and presents another health challenge and healthcare cost for the nation as a whole, but given all else, this difference in capacity, stamina and mental toughness between the two demographics has, by and large, played out on more than one occasion outdoors.
Daily activity levels for children today are practically non-existent. It could be because they don’t do chores at home, the concept of walking to market places and within those markets has given way to visit to malls in the comfort of cars, playing in local parks or cycling with friends has been replaced with hours spent on mobiles and social media. Even eating habits have taken a hit with easy availability and affordability of junk food. I am sure there are many, who are into sports and/or who work out at the local gym. But limited sporting activity and work-outs cannot be a replacement for an active daily lifestyle that helps build both strength and endurance of body, mind and spirit, without one even realizing it.
Parents need to take charge.
Parents must accept blame to quite an extent. We need to create the intent, through demonstration, in our children to lead a more active and healthier lifestyle rather than the sedentary one they are becoming accustomed to. We should spend more time with them doing household chores, encourage them to play outdoors every evening, walk more and drive less, go on hikes and nature trails (which rejuvenate one on multiple levels and enhance life experiences) and so on.
We are on a slippery slope and unless we become aware and take charge of our thoughts and choices, each successive generation could be less physically fit than the previous one. The chasm between reality and perception will only widen. And going forward, it will be tough to dismiss it as mere nostalgic romanticism.