As we age, our healthcare conditions may deteriorate. We may no longer be able to enjoy the activities we once were used to. We may become increasingly lonely. We also may be at risk of elder abuse and neglect, if we are unable to speak up about our needs. However, our golden years are also to be celebrated. Our golden years are a time when we can finally check off the items on our bucket list, socialize with other seniors, relax, and achieve our goals that we never had time to before. We cannot allow ageism to define us. Each one of us ages differently. We must ensure that we embrace and channel a healthy mindset and ensure that we receive the optimal level of care from expert, compassionate senior caregivers to ensure that we are living our best lives so we may age in place or transition during our golden years.
Ageism, by definition, is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people based on their age. Unfortunately, ageism is a widespread problem that has significant negative impacts on the health of senior citizens the world over. For seniors, ageism is a challenge faced every day. As we age, we can be overlooked for employment opportunities, restricted from (or removed from) needed social services and portrayed in the media as frail or dependent, less functional versions of our younger selves.
When seniors are portrayed in such a way, it can put them at higher risk for depression and social isolation. Unfortunately, if someone is made to feel useless or inadequate by enough people, in enough different ways, they will begin to believe it is true. To avoid being a hindrance to friends and family, seniors may start to become reclusive. They will go out less as they feel they are unable to “function” on their own. They will be less likely to make plans because they do not want to burden someone with having to drive them around or get them to appointments. Eventually, this leads to depression and a shortened life span.
Seniors who embrace aging have been shown to live almost eight years longer than those with negative attitudes, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It has been said that we are only as old as we feel, and there is some truth to that. Of course, the physical connection to growing older cannot be ignored. However, there is significant evidence that the mindset can have a substantial impact on how we age. We indeed live in a society where youth and vigor are glorified, and seniors or the elderly are often considered “unable” or even in some cases, cast aside in favor of those who are younger and have more perceived capabilities. For some who allow the “I’m too old” mindset to take over, their quality of life can be drastically reduced. Entering your golden years does not mean you have reached a stage in your life where this is necessary. Age does not mean you need to live “less” than you did in the years prior. The opposite is actually more accurate. This is the time of your life where you have the ability to live more! Below are a few things you can do to help alter your mindset around aging.
Alter Your Mindset Around Aging
1) Gain perspective
Somewhere in the paragraphs above, the old saying “you are only as old as you feel” was mentioned. There is truth in this statement. When you allow yourself to feel old or feel as though aging is “ugly,” you will indeed feel as though you are aging faster. There are studies that show those who believe their age does not define them do indeed live longer than those who allow age to determine their futures.
2) Refuse to talk “old talk”
Stop focusing and kibitzing with friends on the distinct challenges of getting old. Instead, focus on nothing more than how great you feel right now.
3) Decide not to act your age
A great quote about aging came from a man named George Bernard Shaw. He said, “we don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Get out there and live like you want to! Take the cruise, ride a bike, sing karaoke.
4) Move towards the positive
Focusing on the things you want to avoid about aging is an excellent way to find yourself immersed directly in it. Instead of focusing on what you don’t want to experience with aging, focus on living with gratitude for what you do want. This “towards” mindset creates energy and focus in the right direction. Older adults are generally happier and carry less worry and stress with them during their day to day activities as compared to their middle-aged and younger counterparts. There will indeed be declines in health, and your household income will change; however, many older adults enjoy significant improvements in the emotional aspects of their lives.
5) Prepare yourself
Many of the challenges faced by adults as they get older are unrelated to normal aging processes. There will be changes to your abilities and health as you get older, and you may not be able to do all of the things you were once able to. However, the quality of your life during the later years is partly within your realm of control. The choices you make now regarding lifestyles and behaviors will have a significant impact on the symptoms associated with what is often called “secondary aging.” Important daily things such as exercise, healthy eating habits, and proper sleeping habits will have an impact on your physical health. During the later stages of your life, your physical health is almost directly linked to your cognitive and emotional health. Consider the process of preparing for the later stages of life as similar to preparing for other major life events such as starting a family or buying your first house. These are events you would plan ahead for, and aging is no different. As your income changes, seek financial advice for help in adapting to those changes and planning for the inevitable increase in health care costs. Continue to exercise and eat well. Even if it is just a short walk each day, getting daily exercise is essential to remaining healthy and full of vitality as you enter those golden years.
We simply cannot avoid getting older. It is a natural, expected, and, unfortunately, a necessary part of growth and living our lives. What we can do is plan to avoid the pitfalls that come along with allowing the ageism mindset (and influence to control how we live and feel. Get out there and live the life you have been working towards in the years leading up to your golden years. Mind over matter is key. You may find you experience a few new aches and pains that weren’t part of your day in the past, but don’t let that hold you back from trying new things or taking full advantage of the freedoms these years often afford to someone. Remember, the only person who can stop you is you.
One of the major challenges of aging and an ageism mindset are the feelings of isolation associated with getting older. As many seniors approach the later years of their life, they tend to spend more and more time alone in an effort not to inconvenience friends and family.
Senior living facilities in Anchorage such as Baxter Senior Living help you to keep doing those things that you want to do with other members of the senior community who share the same independent mindset as you. Assisted living facilities are often mistaken for nursing homes; this is not the case. At Baxter Senior Living we offer you the ability to seek assistance when you need it while continuing to live your best independent life. If you are curious as to how Baxter Senior Living may be able to help you, contact us for a tour.