Positive ageing is “the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life as you age”. The Australian Psychological Society (APS)
We are ageing since the moment we are born, and in our younger years we can take a negative view of people over 40. And then we get older, and reach that age. Maybe we shift and dread getting 50, or 60 …
We notice more aches and pains, the change of hair colour, hair growing where we don’t want it, and losing it where we do.
Maybe we focus on the visible signs of ageing and seek beauty products and ‘tweakments’. We do all we can to give an outward appearance of youth.
Changes are happening within and we can make some changes to our lifestyle to help keep our health. For example, we can follow the advice gained from a study of the Blue Zones (REF: Dan Buettner)
It is less about going to the gym; more about having an active life with physical activity built in such as gardening.
The concept of Ikigai expands on the reason to get up in the morning. We can add seven years to our life when we have a sense of purpose.
Stress leads to chronic inflammation which leads to many different diseases, so it helps to avoid stress from outside demands and too much stuff. Prayer and remembering our ancestors can keep us grounded.
This is linked to food, and to stop eating when we are 80% full and to eat lighter in the evening.
Meals focused more on beans and lentils, and lots of plants with less meat and smaller quantities.
Wine at 5
It is not giving everything up, one or two glasses of wine a day, with food or friends is seen as beneficial.
The research found most people belonged to a faith based community and this added 4-14 years of life expectancy. I see this as a sense of community and belonging to be with people who care about you.
Loved Ones First
In the blue zone areas ageing parents and grandparents lived at home or nearby and invested time and love with their children. They cared for their parents and their children would care for them.
We take on the behaviours of those we associate with. Spend much time with those who smoke, eat unhealthy foods and do sedentary habits and this will have a negative effect on our health. Choose friends who are positive and support healthy behaviours to have a better chance of living to 1oo.
We can also focus on our attitude and belief system. Aspects of personality can help such as
- Being adaptable and embracing change
- Having a sense of humour
- Being determined
- Staying optimistic
- Making the most of what we have
We can seek out connection with others through friendships and belonging. We can get this through volunteering and remaining connected to our friends.
We can accept any limitations and choose other options instead. For me a knee injury meant I had to give up swing dancing, instead I focused more on watching live music – I was fine to dance at the gig without the twisting from Lindy Hop and Balboa.
We don’t live in a vacuum and much of the outside world has negative views on ageing. Over 60 and you can be referred to as a pensioner, the elderly, frail, slow, forgetful … and if we absorb these messages there can be consequences for our cognitive and physical ability and how long it will take for us to recover from illness. Tell me I’ll be slow at doing something and we are more likely to agree with them. We have to recognise these messages and don’t allow them to affect us.
Are you an ageist about yourself?
As your body changes, are you the first to look at yourself and say you are getting old? Feeling we are too old can limit what we try to achieve. We could say that we can’t join that group as not good enough, or that we are too old. I belong to a comedy improv group and I’m the oldest there, but I don’t let that stop me and it’s a great place to build friendships with people much younger than me. If we go through our life assuming we can do anything what possibilities are there for you?
Thinking positively about getting older is a good thing, for extending life
“Those individuals who reported a more positive self-perception of ageing demonstrated significantly longer survival than those who reported more negative perceptions of ageing” Becca Levy, Professor of Epidemiology at Yale.
Let’s seek out positive messages
“In interviews, the first question I get in America is always: ‘What do you do to stay young?’ I do nothing. I don’t think aging is a problem. What irritates me a little is growing fatter. It irritates me that if I eat what I want to eat, it shows. Yes, my face has wrinkles. But I don’t find it monstrous. I’m so surprised that the emphasis on aging here is on physical decay, when aging brings such incredible freedom. Now what I want most is laughs. I don’t want to hurt anybody by laughing — there is no meanness to it. I just want to laugh.” Isabella Rossellini, Oprah, September 2009