Column 15-Make ageing a positive experience

What do you think about getting older? Do you feel it is something to dread or to look forward to? The power of thought is very important and how we believe something will happen, will actually affect how it does happen. If you don’t believe me then think about all the advice you have probably given people over the years, like ‘belief in yourself’, ‘you can do it’, ‘you will get that…’ Hopefully, you have spoken to yourself this way too.
Have you read the book ‘The Secret’, or watched the documentary on it? When I watched the DVD I thought back through my life and I could see where I had applied the principles it talks about in the film. I had withdrawn from university for personal reasons in my early 20s and when I decided to return to my studies, I envisioned finishing my courses and then working in a great career. Similarly, when I envision getting older I imagine the freedom and fun it can bring. I accept that there are challenges along the way and that I physically need to adjust how I do things, or what stuff I take on, but I visualize doing and taking on new hobbies and attending events I do not have time for right now.
I recently read a fascinating article on research, about the perception people have of aging and found out that those persons who picture aging more positively, actually had a more positive aging experience. I have worked with the older population throughout my entire life and I do not know if that has provided me with the positive outlook that I have, or if it is just the person that I am. I have worked with many people who require a high level of care so it is not like I have only experienced the most positive side of aging – I just tend to have a positive outlook about it all. I see the wisdom that comes with it, even with cognitive decline for some; I see the joys, even with the heartbreak; I see the influence the older population has on the next generation, and without it, I do not know where we would be – but I believe that we are definitely richer for it, from many aspects. I do not believe it is the senior population that has caused our public service woes; but what I do believe is that the lack of reflecting, with respect, on what they have done over the years has resulted in us not learning from those who have lived and worked in the years before us.
I cannot help but relate this topic to a Socrates quote, ‘The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’ Of course, this quote can be applied to many aspects of life, but when I read it I thought of the building of new challenges and joys as we get older, rather than always trying to hang onto the youth that does slip away. This is not to say we cannot continue to act and be young and joyful, but we do need to focus on what we can continue doing and keep doing it as e get older. Maybe our golf or bowling scores do not stay as high as they once were, but we keep on golfing and bowling; maybe we cannot drive by ourselves anymore, but there are other ways to get to events. Reaching out to ask for help so we can continue to do things we enjoy – that is the ‘building on the new’ as Socrates said.
The good news from that research was that it also showed that we can learn to embrace positive aging thoughts and not be ageist against ourselves. This will help us experience better health. Ageism (discrimination against older persons) from others we know can be very harmful, so we do not want to let others’ opinions affect us in what we can achieve and we definitely do not want to create our own limitations by having ageist thoughts.
There are many positive aspects to getting older; so I urge everyone to focus on all of those positive aspects as you move forward in life – and think about them often.

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