How do you feel about the ageing process?
While some of us see it as a positive rite of passage, many of us consider it a negative experience that has to be endured.
Ageing may be associated with many rewarding experiences. However, it is also a time when significant changes occur to the body and mind. These changes are not always positive. As we age, some people see changes in how they are able to function and carry out day-to-day tasks. Others see their social networks disappearing and bereavement becoming a more common occurrence as they get older. In addition, many older adults are no longer in employment or have to change their employment role significantly to adapt to their new situation. Ageism also has a significant impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of ageing adults.
How Ageism Affects Our Views on Ageing
Ageism is a much-discussed topic that has been reported to be more widespread than sexism or racism. The World Values Survey (WVS), an ongoing research project conducted by social scientists across the world, found that 60% of respondents don’t think older people are respected. Surprisingly, the lowest levels of respect for older adults came from higher-income countries.
These negative thoughts and attitudes toward ageing are particularly damaging for the physical and mental health of older adults. A study from Yale University’s department of epidemiology and public health found that seniors who had more positive views about the ageing process lived 7.5 years longer than people who perceived ageing in a negative light. Older adults who think that they are a burden on friends and family, or who feel that their lives are not valuable are at higher risk of depression and social isolation, which can lead to an increased risk of health complications.
What is Positive Ageing?
Despite these challenges, maintaining an optimistic attitude toward ageing is important as it allows us to feel good and feel in control of our life as we enter its later stages. This is known as ‘Positive Ageing’.
Simply put, ‘Positive Ageing’ is a term used to describe the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life as you age.
As we age and our circumstances change, we will likely move in and out of periods of positive ageing. However, those who age positively typically live healthier, more fulfilled lives, and enjoy a better quality of life as they get older.
Tips for Positive Ageing
While changing middle-aged and older adults’ negative views on ageing is one of the main ways to promote positive ageing, this is something that is unfortunately out of our control. In addition, many aspects of our health as we age are genetic and cannot be prevented. However, there are many parts of our health and the ageing process in general that we can take control of.
As we get older, our ‘health’ is not simply defined by physical performance and ailments, and, through positive ageing, all older adults are capable of staying healthy as we age. The following are some suggestions as to how we can do that.
- Live a healthy lifestyle by eating well, sleeping enough and avoiding smoking or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Move or exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day to ensure we stay physically active.
- Train our brain consistently by regularly taking on tasks that challenge us mentally. As we get older, we should never stop learning new things.
- Ensure we stay connected to those around us, such as our partner, family, friends, neighbours, and our wider community, through upholding relationships (and creating new ones)!
- Practice gratitude and positivity regularly to change our mindset so that we feel good about ageing.
- Don’t worry about the little things. Try to accept limitations and ask for help when necessary.
- Continue to set new goals (no matter how small) and take the necessary steps to ensure we meet them.
- Reduce any stress in our lives and learn how to relax and unwind.
- Look after our physical health by having medical check-ups regularly and attending recommended health screenings.
Having an optimistic outlook and taking affirmative action can help us all experience positive ageing. For more information on this article, or the other services that we provide, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Brain Sparks. Our Ageless Grace® program can help you keep your body young as you age. The program uses all areas of the brain combined with movement to improve brain and body health.