Change your thinking, change your aging

 

Would you like to age well? If so, it’s never too soon to change your mind about aging and let go of negative stereotypes — such as the notion that older people are less competent or vital than when they were young, for example.

Why? Because negative expectations regarding aging can have a powerful impact on how we actually experience aging. We may begin internalizing such expectations years before “getting old” actually happens to us.

People with positive attitudes lived 7 years longer

A study of 660 adults aged 50 and older from an Ohio community, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that people who had positive attitudes about aging in younger years — trust, for example that all will be well, and confidence in their own destiny — lived more than seven years longer than those with negative attitudes.

Not only that, but the effect of a positive attitude seems to trump other factors known to influence longevity, such as smoking, exercise, and loneliness.

Using data from the Ohio study, Becca Levy, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the Yale University and colleagues found that people who had more positive perceptions of aging were likely to take better care of themselves as they got older.

Dr. Levy noted that in the US, for example, people are exposed to negative stereotypes about aging even in childhood — whereas things are very different in cultures like China, where older people are more revered.

But the important point here, as Dr. Levy says, and I agree with her 100 percent, is that negative perceptions of aging “can be changed – particularly if people are exposed to positive role models.”

Childlike heart very helpful as we age

“The great man is he who does not lose his childlike heart,” said the Chinese philosopher Mencius.

I find in my own experience that a “childlike” attitude toward aging helps me approach this rite of passage that comes to us all with an open mind and heart.

It helps me discover that rather than being a negative experience, aging can be a door to greater meaning and happiness, a greater experience of my true potential.  Who’d have thought it?

Let me give a few examples here.

 1. Aging can be an opportunity to see the beauty and magic of little moments and little things more vividly than was perhaps possible before.

 2. Aging can be an opportunity to redeem our lives in areas that perhaps sorely need redeeming. For example, I’m so happy that I have at long last changed my attitude to my father, Reg, who died 12 years ago at 95.

I could never understand my Dad while he was alive. I felt alienated from him. But I do not feel alienated from him any longer. This may sound strange, but I feel I have healed this split between us. I feel the presence of his indomitable spirit quite vividly– and I am so thankful for it.

3. Aging gives us space to reconnect more deeply with our genuine, authentic  self.

 If you have any thoughts on this article I would love to share them. Also, if you know someone who would benefit from this email, please forward it to them. Love and blessings to you.

Picture credit: Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Rec

http://farm2.staticflickr.com/1135/5076042698_a20168d53d.jpg

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

a vanderven December 7, 2011 at 4:49 pm

very very true

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Josh December 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm

I’m 26 years old and it’s very clear to me that I will be learning a lot in my life. I spend a lot of time with older people interested in self development and they constantly astound me at the insight they’ve learned over their lives.

My advice on how to age gracefully is to look back at how clueless you had been and celebrate what you’ve learned. There are plenty of us about to make those same mistakes you can now look back and laugh at.

I’ve seen these same people experience deeper emotions and connection with each other than I’ve ever seen in anyone my age.

I don’t think aging with grace is hard I think it’s natural. Just remember to put your pants on before you leave the house and you’ll be golden.

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Phil D. Malmstrom December 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm

You make excellent points here Christopher.

As I get older, I find that it’s all the more important to maintaining a childlike perspective, seasoned with bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way. In that same line of thought, I find it amazing how much insight into my own aging I find, spending time with my young (9 and 12) children.

There truly is a beauty in allowing that spark of wonder and innocence to grow along with us, isn’t there? :-)

Have a Blessed Day my friend!
Phil D. Malmstrom recently posted..Thankful Thursday: Mary’s “Plan B”

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Christopher Foster December 9, 2011 at 9:49 am

Phil, did I ever tell you how much I appreciate your calm, stable loving spirit? Your presence on these pages is always such a blessing to me and I’m sure to others.

I love what you say about how the seed of wonder and innocence in us all can grow and keep growing as we age. I mean, we’re here anyway, right? Why not enjoy the journey and make the most of it? You have a blessed day too.

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Tess The Bold Life December 9, 2011 at 5:38 am

Hi Christopher,

This is so true. I like the one about redeeming myself. I was such a young mother…22 years old with all four girls. I made a lot of mistakes. I can say I did a lot of great things as well. But those mistakes…I’ve redeemed myself.

I love being a young grandmother. My 17 year old granddaughter visited me over Thanksgiving. I ran five miles while she rode our bike along side of me. One would think I’d be on the bike, eh? Love to you!

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Christopher Foster December 9, 2011 at 9:44 am

Beautiful, Tess, just beautiful.

You give me a whole new image of a grandmother to think about:-) Do you know, I think you’re going to keep your young and feisty spirit forever. That must have been a fun day with your granddaughter. How many sneakers do you go through a year?

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Noch Noch December 10, 2011 at 10:03 pm

when I was in my mid twenties, i didn’t ever want to grow older
now i’m 30, and I’m glad i’m aging, and getting wiser everyday, in touch with my inner self :)
Noch Noch
Noch Noch recently posted..auguries of innocence

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Christopher Foster December 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

So happy to hear about these changes happening in you Noch Noch. You’re being a wonderful example and I’m most thankful for all you are offering into your life. Keep it up. Blessings and love.

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Harriet Cabelly December 12, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Hi Christopher,
I love your comment on the ‘childlike heart’. I believe in that wholeheartedly. This summer I met Steven Speilberg’s mother in Los Angeles. She owns a restaurant. She’s 91 and with an incredible child-like spirit. She doesn’t look her age or act it. She’s fun, youthful and full of zest. I want to be like her when I ‘grow up’. I’m middle-age now and when people tell me I’m fun and silly, I take that as a great compliment.
When we start to get up there in age, we can really take in the awe, wonder and amazement of our world around us. That certainly keeps us child-like with our oohs and aahs as we inhale and exhale the beauty.

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Christopher Foster December 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Harriet, what a great story of how you met Spielberg’s mother. I don’t know if I’m imagining it, but it seems to me I’m reading more and more stories about bright-spirited people in their 90’s (or 100’s come to that) keeping their sense of zest and fun.

It really is an inspiration is’nt it. I appreciate your comment so much. A child-like spirit and attitude takes us a long way. Blessings.

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Barbara December 13, 2011 at 7:08 pm

Following your advice to keep a childlike mind. New obstacles before me, but with all the great information I have gathered from so many… I will be moving forward and ‘rebuilding’ my self, from without and within.
Barbara
Barbara recently posted..Has your world ever been turned up-side down?

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Pamela Bohner June 29, 2013 at 7:16 am

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Christopher Foster June 29, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Many thanks for your comment Pamela. I wish you all the very best.

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