Asking your opinion on aging is not just an idle query. Does aging mean decline and disability to you? Or do you consider aging to be a time of opportunity and growth?
According to the Wall Street Journal, your attitude about aging plays a key role in how well you actually experience getting older.
“In test after test, researchers are finding that if we think about getting older in terms of decline or disability, our health likely will suffer. If, on the other hand, we see aging in terms of opportunity and growth, our bodies respond in kind,” Anne Tergesen wrote in the WSJ.
The good news is that there is a real physical and mental upside to aging with positive attitudes. On the other hand, negative stereotypes which are pervasive in America can do serious harm to all concerned.
“Psychologists and neuroscientists are identifying strategies that individuals can use to improve their mind-sets about aging, with benefits for their health and well-being. In a recent study, for example, researchers at institutions including the Yale School of Public Health found that older individuals who were subliminally exposed to positive messages about aging showed long-term improvements in self-image, strength and balance….
“Negative stereotypes about aging ‘are a public-health issue,’ says Becca Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health and lead author of the Yale study. ‘What people aren’t aware of is that they have the ability to overcome and resist negative stereotypes’ and “compensate for the ill effects of automatic ageism.”
Of course, you don’t have any prejudices, right? Well, the Journal offers a really cool test on that. You can take the Implicit Association Test online.
I hope you will take it. You may be able to clear up any ageist stereotypes you may be favoring without being aware of them.
The Journal piece encourages us to accept the aging process. “ … it’s important not to go overboard and expect an entirely positive experience of aging. The key is to hold both positive and negative in balance and really understand and own the aging process.
On average, individuals ages 40 and older report feeling 20% younger than their actual ages—a tendency that can serve a useful psychological purpose.
“By distancing yourself from your age, you also distance yourself from negative age stereotypes,” says David Weiss, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York.
But age denial can also leave us vulnerable to the harmful impact of negative age stereotypes down the road—for example, if we suffer a disability or are confronted by evidence that others view us as old, experts say.
Moreover, “denying one’s age may be psychologically harmful in that it disassociates us from various important developmental tasks that should take place in later life,” says Prof. Weiss.
Okay, if you feel that you’re getting your head on straight about aging, I recommend you get your butt moving along those lines, too.
Regular readers know that I am 79 years old and live an active life. I want to encourage you to adopt a two pronged attack to aging and aging concepts. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) for more important info on aging and your mental capacities. I believe very strongly that regular exercise is the closest thing to the fountain of youth for us. After all, we are only organic machines. We need to be nourished intelligently and move our bodies often. Use it or lose it is truly the law of the body.