Resolve to Improve Your Attitude About Aging in 2022
Over the past decades, experts in the field of aging have seen a big change in the ways we think and talk about growing older. There’s been a movement toward empowerment, and toward helping all older adults remain as independent, active and engaged as possible, even as they face physical and cognitive challenges. In our senior living communities, the emphasis is on viewing each resident as an individual to be respected and honored. With our increased longevity, this is an important goal for individuals, families and our society as a whole.
Medical research shows that feeling positive about growing older contributes to longevity and better health, just like controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. A good attitude about aging helps prevent physical damage caused by stress. People with a positive attitude are more likely to exercise regularly, sleep well and eat a healthy diet. But a negative attitude can lead to anxiety, depression and pessimism, which are all are associated with higher rates of disease and a shorter lifespan. Said University of Georgia emeritus gerontologist Leonard Poon, “What is happening to you matters, but more importantly, it is your perception of what is happening to you that is really important to your individual health.”
Sometimes keeping a positive attitude about aging can seem like an uphill battle, especially in the face of common negative attitudes from society. The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) says that general public opinion has failed to keep with more enlightened attitudes about aging. That creates barriers to improving supports and solutions that promote good quality of life for seniors. The AGS called for “reclaiming the social narrative on what aging really means,” and identifying and calling out ageism. We can seek out positive images of aging, check our own attitude about age, and keep the conversation going about the value of older adults and the rewards of being older.
Enhance your sense of purpose
In our society, we often see “the pursuit of pleasure” as the root of well-being. However, psychologists tell us that experiences that give us a sense of purpose and meaning are the most valuable and healthy. Spending time purposefully engaged in life promotes a more positive attitude. Healthy aging experts suggest taking these steps:
Choose activities that enhance your sense of purpose. This might include your family, your work, volunteer service, your faith community or other interest group. If you live in a senior living community, get involved in the committees and activities offered.
Take time to cultivate a sense of meaning. What is important to you? Find ways to explore the questions and concerns that resonate in your life. Express yourself through creativity. Paint, make music, keep a journal or write your autobiography—enjoy your place in history!
Don’t forget exercise. Physical activity clears the mind and improves mood. Exercise increases brain chemicals that give us a sense of well-being. No matter what your health condition, there’s an exercise program that’s right for you. (Be sure to consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.)
Report stress, anxiety and depression to your doctor. These can all damage our attitude about aging. Many mood disorders are treatable, and although they are more common as we age, they are not “a normal part of aging.” The reverse can also happen; a negative attitude about aging can increase emotional distress.
Study after study shows that people of every age who have a positive attitude about aging are more likely to be healthy. And did you know that younger people who hold positive attitudes about older people are more likely to be healthy in their later years? By resolving to improve our attitude about aging, we benefit not only ourselves, but the next generation, as well.