The human race is getting older at an alarming pace. And you and I will get there sooner than we think.
The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.— Frank Lloyd Wright, architect, built 1000 structures, lived to 92 years
What Is Positive Aging?
Positive aging is striving one’s best to stay healthy and happy in the later years of life, physically, mentally, and socially. It is about nurturing an optimistic attitude in managing life and engaging with others as positively as one’s age allows.
Growing old positively is not about how well you can avoid the unavoidable pitfalls of aging, but rather about how well one can focus on making the later years of life worthwhile.
In essence, successful aging is about maintaining both physical and mental health well into the late years, so that one can handle the routine affairs of their life with minimal help. It is not about trying to delay or mask the undesirable effects of aging. Aging positively is more about having a good quality of life than one’s external appearance.
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
Positive aging involves successfully managing the above challenges and making the senior years healthful, fruitful, graceful, and meaningful.
It is not about fighting the aging process, but accepting its limitations and staying useful and helpful. It is keeping oneself fit enough to tackle the physical, social, and mental challenges.
Age is … a limitation you put on your mind.— Jackie Joyner-Kersee, ‘Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century‘
7 Proven Tips To Stay Untouched By Years
We can age successfully, live our sunset years healthfully, and grow old with poise and grace if we would include the age-positive interventions into our lives.
Here are 7 science-based tips to help stay positive about aging, and age healthily in both mind and body:
- Stay focused on the positives of life.
- Keep your brain alert, active, and flexible.
- Keep yourself free from stress as much as possible.
- Stay active. Do 30 min of moderate exercise every day.
- Don’t let go of your social connections. Don’t isolate yourself.
- Eat for health and energy rather than for taste and pleasure.
- Seek regular help from your doctor and other health professionals.
1. Stay focused on the positives of life
Keeping an optimistic outlook towards the future and feeling enthusiastic about life itself can help you get more out of your years. A 2019 study found an optimistic attitude can help people live up to 15% longer and have a better chance of living to 85 or more.
You can age positively also by cultivating and keeping a positive mindset. Research has shown a mental attitude of positivity can increase longevity.
Engage with life proactively and try to commit yourself to a few meaningful activities that are useful to you as well as others. Over time, this will help others see you as a helpful person to have around.
Discover the meaning and purpose of your life if you have not already. It will help you have a far more enjoyable quality of life.
•» So, keep a positive and optimistic attitude.
2. Keep your brain alert, active, and flexible
Carrying out tasks that give your brain a workout is vital to keep your thinking sharp. It could be as simple as reading books or listening to audiobooks, solving a crossword or Sudoku, learning new skills as origami, or playing chess.
Choose games you have fun playing, as you will be more likely to play them more often without getting frustrated. If you always disliked Sudoku, then do not start because someone suggested you should. Remember to vary the types of activities and find a balance and flow.
You could also go on virtual tours of cities and places and fill your brain with ideas and visuals from new cultures and people. For example, you could tour The National Museum of Natural History.
Always believe and practice that you can keep learning and remembering, whatever your age. Our brains can reshape according to demands on it — scientists call this neuroplasticity.
•» So, regularly engage your brain in stimulating activities.
3. Keep yourself free from stress as much as possible
High levels of stress can cause damage to your psychological and physical self. Chronic stress can pull down your immunity and make you more prone to illnesses. Create environments where you can feel safe, stay in control, and make choices. Take prudent care of your money — as the lack of finances can be a toxic source of stress.
Stop overthinking and worrying your head off. Learn how to practice mindfulness and let life happen. Accept your boundaries; do not take up any bit more than you can handle. Learn to say ‘No’ to people who demand too much from you.
•» So, try to keep your stress levels low.
4. Stay active. Do 30 min of moderate exercise every day
Physical exercise is a proven way to increase your productivity and health in your golden years. Exercise keeps your mind active and fresh, increases your mobility and balance, brings a more optimistic outlook towards life, and, of course, reduces the risks of several illnesses. Strength training can help maintain muscle mass, which can then reverse frailty and delay dependency or care-givers.
•» So, exercise your body regularly.
5. Don’t let go of your social connections. Don’t isolate yourself
Maintain your contact with others by joining clubs or going to places where those of your age gather, as community parks, for morning or evening walks.
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. Build meaningful relationships that nurture you. A recent study showed when one person within a couple-relationship avoids distress and conflicts, the other tries to do the same. And conversely, when one person seeks personal growth and meaningful experiences, the other wants to achieve them too.
Also, remember to respect others’ choices and try not to step on their toes.
•» So, maintain 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, the brain foods—seafood, beans, nuts, and greens—can help keep your mental sharpness intact to a great extent.
The Japanese island Okinawa is one of the blue zones of planet Earth. Blue zones are places where people live exceptionally long and healthy lives.
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.
Several studies over the years could decipher some of their secrets of longevity. One of these is the practice of Hara Hachi Bu. Translated into English, it means eating up to the point when your stomach is 80% full. The researchers found this helps the digestive system to churn and pound the food better and faster.
•» So, eat more healthily and sparsely.
7. Seek regular help from your doctor and other health professionals
Keep a diary of your medical checkups and doctor appointments. Set up reminders so as not to miss them. Stop any unhealthy habits or addictions you might have, like smoking or drinking.
Ask for psychological help whenever you feel you are unable to cope with a situation with peace of mind. Never miss your medical checkups and doctor visits.
•» So, keep a medical diary and attend your medical check-ups.
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”
Are People Living Longer Now?
Yes, evidently. More people are living up to late old age than ever before. In 2020, the number of people aged more than 60 surpassed the number of children aged less than 5 years.
People today are living much longer, and more of us are getting to grow to a ripe old age, as compared to even a couple of decades years earlier. Because life expectancy and longevity have increased incredibly in the last few decades due to scientific, social, and medical advances.
News of nonagenarians (people living into their nineties) and centenarians (people living to 100+) carrying out incredible feats are common today.
The World Health Organization estimates the number of people aged 60+ would reach 2 billion globally by 2050. That would be 22% of the world’s population.
Compare that to the year 2015, and we find the elderly made 12%, or 0.9 billion, of all the people on earth. That is nearly double in 35 years.
|World population||7.5 billion||9.1 billion|
|Older population||0.9 billion||2.0 billion|
|‘Oldie’ percentage||12 percent||22 percent|
According to the National Institute of Aging, in 2010, about 524 million people were 65 years or older — that is, 8% of the world population. By 2050, this will expectedly grow to nearly triple that figure, to about 1.5 billion — that is, 16% of the world population.
Closer home, India’s older population of 60 million in 2010, is projected to exceed 227 million by 2050 — an increase of nearly 280%.
Today, seniors form a sizable part of the world population. Sadly, however, the younger people all over hold a strong undertone of negativity towards old age and old people.
Such a stance of ageism can critically affect the physical and mental health of seniors. The older people thus made to feel like a burden on society start to value their lives less worthy. This pushes them into the high-risk zones of depression and social isolation, both of which can shorten lives.
In contrast, when we adopt a positive attitude towards our seniors, they feel more valued, positive, and optimistic. Science shows, those who stay positive about aging have better longevity.
In return, they use some of those extra years to pay back society with their productivity, experience, and wisdom.
With positive aging, any senior may tackle most of the challenges of old age successfully. The following is what the Australian Psychological Society says about growing old with grace and poise:
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.
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 human race is getting older at an alarming pace. And you and I will get there sooner than we think.
- Ann Bowling and Paul Dieppe: What is successful ageing and who should define it?
- The Gerontological Society of America – https://www.geron.org/
- Book on Positive Ageing: Guy Robertson’s book 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.
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Author Bio: Written and reviewed by Sandip Roy – a medical doctor, psychology writer, happiness researcher. Founder of Happiness India Project, and chief editor of its blog. He writes popular-science articles on positive psychology and related medical topics.
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