This is an archived blog post from Green Alder Coaching
We may be living longer, yet, aging is viewed negatively in the media and popular culture. Tut, tut!
Aging is typically associated with a cake mix of ingredients of LOSS – a few cups of physical functioning, a handful of, loss, taste, and vision to name a few. It is often mentioned that there is an inevitable addition of cognitive deterioration and difficulty remembering details such as names. Put into the melting pot, a reduction in social interactions and mix it up with a mug of loneliness, and Hey presto! A cake that collapses!
But,… does it really have to be, way?
If you look at the research most adults greater than 65 are actually healthy …research in the 1990s indicated that 73% of individuals from the late seventies to mid-eighties had no disabling conditions. It’s amazing how far an enthusiastic injection of physical exercise and good nutrition can go to prevent morbid conditions.
It is not too late to start being healthier too, as our bodies are amazingly forgiving and can be improved significantly within a 5-year period. Our brains can keep improving- we do actually continue to produce the right stuff to keep our brains healthy and developing. It does not gradually die off and shrivel up as we may be led to believe. I exaggerate a little for emphasis.
In fact, just having a belief that we can learn and remember stuff helps! Remember the Little Engine That Could – I think I can, I think I can….
Research looking at people who were influenced negatively by aging showed a reduction in performance, memory, and increased stress; whilst individuals showed positive messages about aging improved. Our culture and inner beliefs about aging are making us age faster!!!! Tick Tock.
Research findings of predictors of healthy aging are not quite what you might think:
Not being a heavy smoker, or stopping before 45 (Okay- that one was obvious).
Adaptive defense mechanisms such as anticipation prepare us emotionally for challenging situations, affiliation with friends, re-framing negative situations into humour and transforming negative reactions into constructive activities.
Absence of alcohol abuse, but moderate drinking is okay. Fetch me the red wine 🙂
Healthy stable weight.
Stable marriage. Drat 🙁
Years of education and learning – the more the better!!
To summarise – Some effort is involved, but don’t take life too seriously… Despite our negative attitudes to an aging culture, older people have many advantages already such as:
Less likely to be depressed.
Less negative emotions, but just as many positive (compared with younger generations).
Greater emotional complexity.
Form deeper, more satisfying and closer bonds with people, but spend less time with unimportant acquaintances.
Time is more meaningful.
Better at interpersonal interactions and have multiple perspectives on things.
Research, again, has shown that there is a better and more healthy aging process in communities with continued work activities into older age (but sensitively adjusted for changing abilities), continued responsibility, widespread social support, feeling in control, having choices, and positive attitudes.
Positive attitudes = better memory, longevity, good health, well-being, and a will to live = adding more life to your years, not just years to life!!
Adopting positive attitudes has shown 50 somethings adding 7.5 years to their lives regardless of socioeconomic class, gender, loneliness, and health. Wow, better start right now … I think I can, I think I can!
Every season of our rich lives has strengths and weaknesses, and it is a case of adapting and changing to this, and it can all be good in different ways. We need to appreciate that it can be a more positive experience than we think to age – just different.
People are generally living longer, healthier, and more productive lives despite our media and anti-aging culture. These negative aging social stereotypes lag dangerously behind reality and are seriously damaging our performance, confidence, and physiological functions (e.g. Stress).
Stop it right now! It can be better than this 🙂
Do we focus on the negatives of childhood at the expense of the positives …No! We don’t!! So, why don’t we just stop giving ourselves and society a hard time about the inevitability of aging… We all have to do it sometime…;0) May as well make the most of it…
Adapted from Positive Psychology in a Nutshell- The Science of Happiness by Ilona Boniwell.