Did you know your attitude about age can greatly influence your health and well-being? Levy et. al (2002) found that a positive attitude towards aging can actually increase your lifespan by 7.5 years. In other words, negative thoughts about aging, also known as "ageism", may have a cumulative harmful impact on our health.
So how is the attitude you have about aging related to "ageism"? Imagine the power of fear. If a person associates only decline and disease with aging the person is more likely to be afraid of their future selves. To view aging from a narrow lens of decline discounts the many dimensions of old age that have been valued in societies around the world and throughout recorded history. Alternatively, research has also shown that if one's self perception of aging is more positive, then navigating any future changes with health will be much easier.
As life expectancy in most parts of the world continues to rise there is a need to shift our way of thinking about age. Change your attitude about aging with these five simple steps.
- Reclaim the word old. Be proud of being 'old'. Embrace the word 'old' to combat the stereotype of how a person is suppose to look at 70, 80, 90 or 100.
- Stop idolizing youth. The desire to be engaged and connected in the community is not synonymous with youth. Phrases like "she has a youthful spirit" although well intended idolizes youth. Stop contributing only positive words with youth use and negative words with aging.
- Shift from anti-aging to pro-aging. Stop fighting aging and start challenging ageism. Walk into any health and beauty shop and you will see a wide range of products that support the anti-aging market that reinforces the idea that getting old is something to be avoided. Advocate that all persons' regardless of age want to feel confident and beautiful in their skin.
- Be positive. Remember to not internalize these negative messages about getting older. Aging is the most natural thing in the world and should be celebrated. If we change our beliefs we can change our reality.
- Be true to yourself. Aging is unique for every person; however, everyone over the age 65 is lumped together as one group. Recognize that your needs are unique and no two people age in the same way. Embrace the changes that come with aging with openness and surround yourself with a supportive environment and network.
Think about the words that come to mind when you hear a person say 'old'. Are the words you're thinking immediately negative? If the words that come to mind are negative, you may be carrying some age-related bias and be doing more harm than good for your future health and well-being. Challenge yourself and others to think differently about aging and to embrace change with a new openness to see more than just decline.
Want to hear more positive stories about aging? Eskaton believes age is beautiful and we capture stories that demonstrate the beauty of what time can teach us. Wisdom, respect, growth and resiliency.