Posted by Bill Sandweg on 13 June 2022.
My mother lived until just before what would have been her 96th birthday. She had a great attitude about life. She kept busy gardening and volunteering as long as she could. When old friends passed on, she made new, younger friends. She talked to her friends on a daily basis. She read the paper every day and kept up on world and local affairs. She remained mentally sharp and engaged right up to the end. I certainly hope that some of that will pass down to me but science tells us that we have more control over our later years than we ever thought.
The brain is a powerful organ. The most recent research suggests that people with positive attitudes about aging tend to live substantially longer and healthier lives than those who have negative thoughts about aging. This is true even after allowing for other variables. It is not just the people who start out healthy whose positive attitudes extend their lives. Even those with pre-existing health problems can obtain a great deal of benefit from positive attitudes. And, it turns out, we can improve our attitudes, if we work at it.
Here is a link to an interview with an author who has written on the subject of the benefits of a positive attitude and how we can go about improving our attitudes. The first step she recommends is becoming aware of the attitudes we already have about aging. For example, what are the first things you think of when you think of an older person? Are you thinking about sickness, dementia, disability or are you thinking about activity, social interactions, using leisure to make the community better?
The author next recommends listening to comments around you. What do the people you come into contact with think about older people? Do they harbor negative stereotypes or positive ones? Don’t let the negativity around you drag you down. Speak up and don’t let negative attitudes fester. Advocate for all older Americans bring to their families and communities.
Many older Americans are positive contributors to their communities. They volunteer at charities or at the library or for political campaigns. Like my wife, many grandparents help their children by picking up grandchildren from school or babysitting when a child is too sick to go to school or is off from school while Mom or Dad still have to go to the office. Some older people are successful enough to be able to donate, not just their time, but some of their excess funds to make their communities a better place to live.
Be active. Sedentary lifestyles lead to early mental decline and physical disability. People who are more physically active often have better mental attitudes.
Lastly, avoid social isolation. The more an older person interacts with others, the better for everyone. Be like my mother and make new, younger friends. Be sure not to neglect your old friends. Make a special point to call them or go see them, especially if they are alone.
May you live a long and happy life.