The world’s population is aging faster than you think.
Positive aging is crucial as people are living longer than ever before. As more people reach their 80s and 90s, meeting their housing and healthcare needs is a challenge.
Seniors today need age-friendly programs at both social and individual levels.
Beyond relying on senior-friendly facilities, anyone can learn how to age positively, successfully, and gracefully.
What Is Positive Aging?
Positive aging means cultivating a positive and optimistic mindset and staying socially engaged and physically active in the senior years. This holistic approach to aging helps promote physical, mental, and social well-being. Positive psychology offers many strategies for aging usefully and gracefully, letting us enjoy our golden years.
Positive aging is embracing old age as a natural and fulfilling stage of life while pursuing physical, mental, and spiritual growth. Growing old healthy and happy is both a science and an art.
10 Principles of Positive Ageing
What do you think helps make a successful transition into old age? It is first of all about a change in mindset to keep yourself relevant among the younger generation.
Here are the 10 principles of positive aging:
- Acceptance: Accepting aging as a natural and positive part of life.
- Active engagement: Staying engaged in life through activities and relationships.
- Adaptability: Being open to change and adapting to new circumstances.
- Purpose: Having a sense of purpose and meaning in life.
- Personal growth: Continuously seeking opportunities for personal growth and development.
- Positive attitudes: Cultivating a positive outlook and attitudes towards aging.
- Physical activity: Engaging in physical activity to maintain health and well-being.
- Relationships: Building and maintaining meaningful relationships with others.
- Self-care: Practicing self-care to maintain physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
- Spirituality: Connecting with a higher power or sense of purpose to enhance overall well-being.
3 Ways To Boost Positivity In Seniors
How to get old gracefully and joyfully? Here are three ways to boost positivity in older adults:
- Stay physically active: Physical activity can improve both physical and mental health, and is a great way to boost positivity in seniors. This can include simple exercises, such as walking, stretching, or yoga.
- Maintain social connections: Strong relationships and social connections can help seniors feel supported, valued, and connected to their communities, leading to greater positivity. Encouraging seniors to participate in community events, join social clubs, or connect with friends and family can help boost their positivity.
- Cultivate a growth mindset: Encouraging seniors to embrace new experiences, learning opportunities, and personal growth can help them maintain a positive outlook and a sense of purpose. This can include activities like volunteering, learning a new skill, or taking up a new hobby.
7 Positive Aging Strategies To Grow Old Gracefully
With research in positive psychology, seniors today can handle the majority of the challenges of old age. Also, knowing these strategies, you can now help your parents to age gracefully and positively.
Here are 7 strategies from positive psychology to embrace old age:
1. Focus on the positives, stay optimistic, and be grateful.
Positive thinking and positive aging are closely related. People with glass-half-full outlooks live longer and happier.
By focusing on the good things in life and believing that good things can happen, you’ll get more out of your years, and avoid being a burden to others.
A 2019 study found that having an optimistic attitude can help people live up to 15% longer and have a better chance of living to 85 or more.
- Spend time with optimistic people; they are more likely to make you feel energized, hopeful, and cared for.
An attitude of gratitude also increases life satisfaction.
Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist-author was the epitome of positive aging. The New York Times called him ‘the poet laureate of medicine.’
He was 82 years old when he died in 2015, spending his final days playing the piano, swimming, eating smoked salmon, and writing.
In Gratitude, his last book, Sacks reflects on reaching the end of life and expresses his gratitude for a life well spent:
I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and travelled and thought and written. … Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.— Oliver Sacks
2. Keep your brain alert, active, and flexible.
“Our brains shrink or atrophy slowly over time, primarily in the white matter, where connections between brain areas are located.”— Dr. Ethan Russo
To keep your brain active and flexible, give it regular challenges. Choose activities you enjoy so you’re more likely to stick with them.
Read books, play word puzzles and jigsaw puzzles, learn new skills, and play games like chess. Take virtual tours of cities, museums, and different cultures to gather new food for thought.
Our brain can reshape its parts according to demands on it — scientists call this neuroplasticity. So:
- Rotate your activities to maintain your interest, balance, and flow, and boost your neuroplasticity.
- Always believe and practice that you can keep learning and remembering, whatever your age.
3. Keep yourself free from stress as much as possible.
High levels of stress can damage your psychological and physical self, pulling down your immunity and making you more prone to illnesses.
To keep your stress low, create environments where you feel safe and can make your choices.
You don’t need to control or micromanage every little thing anymore. Accept your limitations.
- Take on fewer responsibilities than you believe you can handle.
- Stop overthinking and worrying, and learn how to practice mindfulness.
- Say ‘No’ to people who demand too much from you. Set boundaries with those who drain you.
“You’re the average of the five people you spend your most time with.”— Jim Rohn
Money problems are a highly toxic cause of stress at any age, but they can be life-sucking in old age.
- Take good care of your money. Avoid falling victim to scammers who prey on your kindness or weakness.
- Try to create a recurring stream of revenue that does not require your regular input (like reverse-mortgaging your house.)
- Don’t waste your limited resources on things you don’t really need. You don’t need to buy anything because your peers are doing so. Instead, learn how to shop for your happiness.
4. Stay active. Do 30 min of moderate exercise every day
Staying active is key to aging well. It is painful to slip and end up immobile, needing help from others.
Regular exercise can reduce your risk of age-related falls and injuries. It improves your strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. It also lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and dementia.
When you exercise, your brain releases feel-good chemicals like endorphins, making you happier and more resilient, and help sleep better.
So, do moderate exercise every day to stay productive, healthy, and positive in your golden years.
- Exercise for 30 minutes a day for at least 5 days a week.
- Join a group to stay motivated to exercise every day. It also helps fulfill your socializing needs.
- Strength training can build muscle mass, which can reverse muscle weakness and delay dependency on caregivers. But do it only under expert supervision.
5. Don’t let go of your social connections. Don’t isolate yourself
Old age is a lonely time.
Most of your friends may have become restricted to their homes due to immobility. Or their family may not want them to go out socially because it may be riskier for their health.
Maintain your contact with others by joining clubs or going to places where those of your age gather, such as community parks, for morning or evening walks.
Choose your friends wisely.
Don’t push away people who care for you and want to spend time with you.
Keep in touch with your family and people who care about you. Even if you feel they have abandoned you because they got too busy, maintain contact with your family.
A 2020 study showed that when one person in a couple-relationship avoids distress and conflicts, the other tries to do the same.
- Seek personal growth and meaningful experiences. It can motivate the other person in your relationship to achieve them too.
- Take care to set these six boundaries. Respect others’ choices and try not to step on their toes.
- Build meaningful relationships that nurture you. Keep in touch with your social connections.
6. Eat for health and energy rather than for taste and pleasure
Old age is a prime time to value the importance of healthy and nutritious food.
Include fresh foods in your diet to help yourself stay happier. Ask your doctor or dietician for advice on what foods you can have and what to avoid.
- Record your food allergies clearly in your medical diary, as “Allergic to peanuts, eggs, and eggplant.”
- As scientists have found, brain foods—seafood, beans, nuts, and greens—can help keep your mental sharpness intact to a great extent.
Okinawan Blue Zone & Hara Hachi Bu
Blue zones are places where people live exceptionally long and healthy lives.
The Japanese island of Okinawa is one of the blue zones of planet Earth. Okinawa has men and women with the longest life expectancy in the world.
The Okinawan men expect to live to about 84, while the women to almost 90. They have a growing community of people aged 100 years or more who are healthy in their day-to-day lives.
They routinely practice Hara Hachi Bu. This is the practice of eating less than what makes one feel full. It means eating up to the point when your stomach is roughly 80% full.
Researchers say this helps the digestive system churn and pound the food better, and move it down the gut faster.
- Eat more healthily and keep 3-4 hours between meals.
- Avoid foods that will take a toll on your digestive system, like spicy foods.
- Keep a ready source of fruits to reach out for when you feel hungry at odd hours, instead of stocking up on processed foods.
7. Seek regular help from your doctor and other health professionals
Stop any unhealthy habits or addictions you might have, like smoking or drinking.
Keep track of your medical conditions. Inform others about your illnesses (create and wear a medical issue or medical alert card).
Maintain a location to keep your medical records and appointments. Mark the location with a visible pointer, such as an arrow.
- Keep a diary of your medical issues and doctor appointments.
- Do not miss your medical checkups and doctor visits. Set up reminders so as not to miss them.
- Ask for help from a mental health professional whenever you feel you are unable to cope with a situation with peace of mind.
Don’t waste so much time worrying about your skin or your weight. Develop what you do, what you put your hands on in the world.— Meryl Streep, known as the “best actress of her generation”
Positive Psychology And Aging: Positive Aging Movement
The aging process is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we can’t age well. Science and society are moving quickly to help aging people in maintaining a high quality of life and functionality.
Aging successfully does not mean postponing or hiding the signs and effects of aging.
It is less about how well we can escape the inevitable hardships of aging and more about how well we can focus on making our latter years meaningful.
Positive psychology research has revealed strategies for dealing with major life changes in the late years of life. It shows us how to stay useful and helpful to ourselves and to others when we get old.
Positive aging research analyses older people’s psychological well-being and physical health, and provides us insights as to how to have better health in old age.
According to the MIDUS (Midlife in the United States) findings, psychosocial factors such as purpose in life, social relationships, and prosocial acts such as volunteering, predict better self-rated health.
Those factors also predict better biological risk profiles, greater well-being, and better cognitive function in aging people, even when an old person has a disability or chronic illness.
Positive ageing is a multifaceted concept that includes physical, functional, social, and psychological well-being. Its primary focus is on how to increase functional years in old age.
It gives us the courage and skill to face the physical, social, and emotional issues of old age.
Positive aging consists of five independent factors: health, cognition, activity, affect, and physical fitness. … The basic notion is that at any age, including the old and very old, people are to some extent in charge of and responsible for their own quality of life. They can enjoy positive well-being and experience “successful aging.”— Liora Bar-Tur
Ageism And Other Challenges of Aging
Unfortunately, today’s kids have a negative attitude toward the elderly, almost universally. They do this while forgetting that they too will have to live as old people for many, many years.
Let’s take stock of some heartbreaking facts about old age. A WHO survey revealed that young people hold a strong undertone of negativity towards old age and old people. This discrimination on the basis of one’s age is called ageism.
Such a stance of ageism can critically affect the physical and mental health of the elderly. The older people, made to feel like a burden on society, start to value their lives less worthy. This pushes them into high-risk zones of depression and social isolation, both of which can shorten lives.
Elderly people have long been held as “irrelevant” and an economic drain on society, particularly in the West. Growing old in the 21st century is difficult and risky, and effective coping with age-related issues is critical to successful aging.
The challenges related to aging, as a survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) found, are:
- Maintaining social networks and activities
- Maintaining health and fitness
- Increased reliance on others
- Feelings of sadness and loss
- Ensuring financial security
- Decreases in mobility
Succesful aging involves managing the above challenges and making the senior years healthy, fruitful, graceful, and meaningful.
Today, seniors form a sizable part of the world population. People today are living much longer lives, and more are surviving to a ripe old age than even a few decades ago.
The World Health Organization estimates the number of people aged 60+ would reach 2 billion globally by 2050.
In 2015, the elderly accounted for only 12% of all people on earth, or 0.9 billion people. By 2050, that figure will have nearly doubled, accounting for 22 percent of the world’s population then.
If we include the above age-positive interventions into our lives, we can age successfully, live our sunset years in good health, and grow old with poise and grace.
On the flip side, when society adopts a positive attitude towards our seniors, they feel more valued, positive, and optimistic.
Science shows that those who stay positive about aging have better longevity. In return, our seniors use some of those extra years to pay back to society with their productivity, experience, and wisdom.
Positive Words For Aging
Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect who built 1000 structures and lived up to 92 years, said,
“The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”
And Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the ‘Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century’ said,
“Age is … a limitation you put on your mind.”
The Australian Psychological Society says:
Positive aging is … the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life as you age.
Positive Aging In Positive Psychology: Research Papers
- Positive Aging – George E. Vaillant, Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing in Work, Health, Education, and Everyday Life, 2015. Link: Positive Aging, George E. Vaillant, 2015
- Growing Older Without Aging? Positive Aging, Anti-Ageism, and Anti-Aging, Generations: Journal of the American Society on Aging – Stephen Katz, 2001. Link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/26555099
- Video Games for Positive Aging: Playfully Engaging Older Adults – Sasha Blue Godfrey & Giacinto Barresi, Internet of Things for Human-Centered Design, 2022. Link: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-8488-3_18
- Fostering Well-Being in the Elderly: Translating Theories on Positive Aging to Practical Approaches – Liora Bar-Tur, 2021. Link: https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2021.517226
- Positive Aging: The Impact of a Community Wellbeing and Resilience Program – Jonathan D. Bartholomaeus & Joseph E. M. Van Agteren, 2019. Link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07317115.2018.1561582
Guy Robertson’s book 10 Steps To Positive Aging lays out ten steps for living a happy and satisfying old age. The exercises in this handbook engage the psychological and emotional aspects of aging for healthy and positive senior years.
How do you promote positive aging?
Here are some ways we can promote positive aging in modern society:
1. Encouraging older adults to stay active and engaged in their communities
2. Supporting programs and services that help older adults age in their place
3. Providing opportunities for intergenerational interaction and exchange
4. Challenging negative stereotypes and assumptions about aging
5. Celebrating the many contributions that older adults make to our society
What are 5 positive things about aging?
Here are five positive aspects of aging:
1. We gain wisdom and perspective.
2. We appreciate life and relationships more.
3. We learn to accept and love ourselves more.
4. We become more confident, patient, and tolerant.
5. We develop a greater sense of humor.
What is a Depopulation Crisis?
When more people die than are born, which is expected to happen as early as 2025, it creates depopulation crisis. This means fewer people available to support an aging population, which is set to live longer than ever before. This leads to resource depletion, and with a smaller workforce, the burden on healthcare and other industries will be enormous. We need new solutions, like modifying housing and new economic ideas to pay for the times ahead.
The power of positive aging lies in having a decent quality of life in old age, rather than looking “ageless.”
It means being helpful to others and to be more self-sufficient, relying as little as possible on others for activities of daily living (ADL), have fewer illnesses, and preserving mental sharpness.
- Be able to go about our daily lives with as little help as possible.
- Be helpful to others rather than becoming a burden to caregivers.
- Preserve and enhance physical and mental health as we grow older.
The elderly population is defined as people aged 65 and over. But we believe there is no typical age of an old person.
All that reference to 65+ years to mean old age is just a current notion, and it’s a stigmatized one. In the future, when they are more, we feel they should use their sheer numbers to find a more inspiring term to call themselves.
The world’s population is aging faster than you think. We will get old sooner than we think.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy—a medical doctor, psychology writer, and happiness researcher. Founder and Chief Editor of The Happiness Blog. Writes popular science articles on happiness, positive psychology, and related topics.
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