Did you know your beliefs about aging have a profound impact on your health? Your beliefs can influence your memory and sensory perceptions, how well you walk, how fully you recover from disabling illness, and how long you live.
Studies have shown that people with positive age beliefs live an additional 7.5 years compared with those who have negative beliefs. Compared with other factors that contribute to longevity, your beliefs about aging can have a greater impact than high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking.
When you think of aging as a negative experience such as decrepit, incompetent, dependent, and senile, you’re going to experience more stress as you age and engage less in healthy behaviors like exercise.
When you view aging as positive such as wise, alert, accomplished, and creative, you’re more likely to be active and resilient and have a stronger will to live.
At our June GaGa Sisterhood Zoom meeting, Jan Golden opened her presentation by asking us: how do you feel about your next birthday?
Here are some of the comments:
OLD, fun to celebrate, getting better every year, much better than the alternative, I always love my birthday, and I’m so grateful for every year.
Jan is a grandma, an anti-ageist activist, and the founder of Age-Friendly Vibes, an age-friendly greeting card company she founded in 2020. She got involved in the anti-ageism movement six years ago after hearing Ashton Applewhite discuss her book, This Chair Rocks.
Now she’s singing the praises of Dr. Becca Levy, the author of Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live. Dr. Levy asserts that with the right mindset and tools, we can change our age beliefs.
Levy, a professor of psychology and epidemiology, has shown in multiple studies that exposing people to positive descriptions of aging can improve their memory, gait, balance, and will to live. “All of us have an extraordinary opportunity to rethink what it means to grow old,” she says.
Tips to Embrace Your Age
- Recognize that not all pain is age-related. We have pain at all ages so don’t blame your pain on age. See a doctor to find out what’s causing it.
- Make friends of all ages. We can benefit from hearing perspectives from different generations.
- Tap into your creative side. We get more creative as we age because we have more time, energy, and money.
- Learn something new. Research in neuroscience confirms that the brain beyond age sixty can flower and bloom if it’s fed a diet of complexity, newness, and problem-solving.
- Be a positive role model for aging. The younger generations are watching us and how we’re talking or not talking about aging — so embrace your age and be proud of your wisdom, achievements, and strength.
- Learn more about ageism and its harmful effects. A common belief is that older people don’t contribute to society. But as we age, we often have more time to volunteer and make meaningful contributions that make the world better for future generations.
- Get involved with anti-ageism causes. Once you become aware of ageism, you see it everywhere. Society has brainwashed us into believing that getting old is bad because our culture is so youth-oriented.
- When you see ageism, call it out. Ask someone, what did you mean by that? When an older adult is forgetful, it’s often blamed on aging. Not remembering happens at all ages.
On my birthday this year, I didn’t make any plans and decided to enjoy the day as it unfolded. By the end of the day, I felt so loved by all the calls, cards, and texts I received that I didn’t want the day to end. Birthdays are wonderful! Embrace them and you’ll have more!!