Scientists are discovering something very peculiar about human aging. How we feel about getting older really matters, and older people tend to be happier than younger people. Let’s look at the later first, and how to stop aging now, and how it affects our life dimension and our overall health and well being. Here’s what Wikipedia says about aging. “In humans, aging represents the accumulation of changes over time, encompassing physical, psychological, and social changes.” For the full report on aging from Wikipedia, please read here.
Older people tend to be happier than younger people, and their happiness increasing with age, a study in The Journal of Clinical Psychology reported.
Researchers contacted 1,546 people ages twenty-one to ninety-nine via random phone calls, and found older age, not surprisingly, is tied to decline in physical and cognitive
function. But, it was also associated with higher levels of satisfaction, happiness, and well being, and lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. The older the person, the study found, the better his or her mental health and well being tended to be.
The researchers used well-validated scales to assess mental health, although the study relied on self-reports and was a snapshot in time that didn’t follow an individual throughout a lifetime. Other studies have found similar results, linking advancing age and higher levels of happiness.
The reason for the effect remains unclear, but the senior author, Dr. Dilip V. Jeste, a Professor of Psychology, at the University of California San Diego, had some suggestions:
“Brain studies show that the Amygdala in older people respond less to stressful or negative influence, than in a younger person,” he said. “We become wise, peer pressure loses its sting. Better decision-making, more control of emotions, doing things that are not just for yourself, knowing oneself better, being more studios, yet more decisive. This is good news for young people, too,” he said. “You have something to look forward to.”
Being Optimistic About Aging
But, it also points to a very big obstacle. Negative beliefs about aging are pervasive in America. Even many older adults embrace the idea that growing old is an awful thing, without knowing, they’re doing potentially serious harm to their health and well being, by not recognizing it doesn’t have to be.
Can we change the minds of the ones that feel getting older is awful? Absolutely! A growing body of research offers hope.
Psychologists and Neuroscientists are identifying strategies that can be used to improve their mindset (by being mindful) about aging, by stressing the benefits of aging and the positive effect on health and well being. In a recent study researchers at Yale University School of Health found that older individuals who were subiminally exposed to positive messages about aging, showed long-term improvement in self-image, strength, and balance.
Other studies have shown that it’s possible to achieve similar results with certain anti-stereotyping tactics. Psychologists, Cognitive Therapists, and Educators use these tactics to treat symptoms like depression and race and gender bias, or harmful habits like smoking. With that in mind, here are four ways individuals can can better protect themselves from harmful effects of stereotypes about aging.
Myths and Facts
Experts say the first step in overcoming negative stereotypes about aging, is simply to understand how stereotypes work and recognize how really debilitating they can be.
Although misleading, but is common practice, by offering a way to automatically categorize individuals into social groups by stereotyping, it allows everyone to “free-up mental energy, without thinking too much,” to live our lives. If we all tried to make sense of everything and everybody we encounter, we wouldn’t have enough attention left over to be functional human beings.
A recent 2014 Gallop-Healthway Well Being Index Telephone Survey of 85, 145 adults, revealed some very interesting results in the following categories:
- Social– having supportive relationships, and love in your life—53% respondents 65 and older said yes to having satisfying relationships, only 38% of respondents 18 to 29 in age, said yes to having, and, only 35% of respondents 30 to 44 in age, said yes to having.
- Community, living location, and pride—56% respondents 65 and older, said yes to feeling community, 30% of respondents 18 to 29 in age, said yes to the feeling, and 36% of respondents 30 to 44 in age, said yes to the feeling.
- Financial, more security, and less money stress— 62% of respondents 65 and older, said yes to having financial security, 34% of respondents 18 to 29 in age, said yes to having, and, 30% of respondents 30 to 44 in age, said yes to having.
- Physical, good health, and enough energy—40% respondents 65 and older still said yes to having physical health, 36% respondents 18 to 29 in age, said yes to having, and 31% of respondents 30 to 44, said yes to having.
As you can readily see, the results from this survey are conclusive, older adults report a better and healthier quality of life, than younger adults.
“Some stereotypes about older adults are positive, like the kind grandparents, or the elder statesman, or the family matriarch. But, in most Western societies, the perception of age
and aging is predominantly negative,” says Dana Kutter, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Duke University.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly how holding negative stereotypes affect health and well being, but they say it’s clear that there is a clear connection in test after test, of negative stereotypes have shown to develop poor health issues. Over the past few decades, dozens of studies from Psychologists, Medical Doctors, and Neuroscientists, show that older peoples with negative views on aging, fair more poorly on health than those with less pessimistic attitudes.
Education and learning helps to get beyond myths about aging, and equally important, understanding that our moods, relationships, and overall health and well being, actually improve with age, as can knowledge and certain types of intelligence.
Because of stereotype, many young adults assume they will face setbacks later in life. but, more than a majority of older adults have found that is not necessarily the case, as reflected in this study:
- Memory Loss—only 25% of ages 65 and older said they experienced memory loss, whereas, 27% of ages 18 to 64, said yes to memory loss.
- Not Feeling Needed—only 9% of ages 65 and older said they didn’t feel needed, whereas, 29% of ages 18 to 64, said they didn’t feel needed.
- Experiencing Serious Illness—only 21% of ages 65 and older said they experienced serious illness, whereas, 42% of ages 18 to64, expressed having serious illness.
- Feeling Sad Or Depressed—only 20% of 65 and older said they felt sad or depressed, whereas, 29% of ages 18 to 64, said they felt sad or depressed.
Stereotypes In Everyday Life
Being bombarded by the power of stereotypes, it’s important for everyone to be aware of how pervasive and inaccurate these beliefs are. Even on TV, older adults are often misrepresented or portrayed as being physically and mentally incompetent. A study of seventy-six regular TV watchers showed that those who watched more TV, had more negative images of aging, than less frequent viewers.
It’s important to become more aware of your own thoughts about older individuals and aging. One thing to guard against, is a tendency to blame things automatically and reflexively on age.
Some older adults, mistakenly blame physical and health problems on aging alone, rather than to the specific cause, which is, in most cases, treatable. For example, Type 2 Diabetes, is not caused by age, but, by poor diet and lack of good nutrition, lack of exercise, and other factors, which are addressable and treatable. Others chalk up occassional memory lapses to “senior moments”, rather than to disorganization or being to busy. In contrast, someone in their twenties, who constantly loses their keys, would never be attributed to age, would it?
“Blaming everything on aging can reinforce negative stereotypes in ourselves, that equate aging with decline,” says Mary Lee Hummert, a Professor at the Gerontology Center at the University of Kansas.
Using Positive Attitude To Overcome Negative Stereotypes
Being aware of negative stereotypes isn’t enough. Research shows that negative stereotypes about aging have a much stronger influence on some older adults than positive ones. So, it’s vitally important to always emphasize the good side of aging with stereotypes.
In recent years, in an effort to find solutions on how to stop aging now, researchers have begun identifying techniques, individuals can use to interrupt negative thoughts about aging, by substituting more positive thoughts. Scientists have used training sessions about bias and stereotyping, and its consequences. They also provided techniques in the training designed to substitute positive for negative stereotypes. For example, the scientists asked the participants to look for examples of people in stereotypes groups who didn’t fit the stereotype, and to also think about what it would be like to be classified as a member of a stereotype group, and stereotyped incorrectly. Those assigned to the training program showed a larger increase in concern about discrimination, and, also exhibited less bias than those without training.
Researchers have found it’s vitally important to harness the power of conscious thought by influencing it, to overcome bias and stereotyping of all types.
Accept the Aging Process
It’s important to understand that aging is the natural process of decline in any living organism, from the smallest cell, to the largest animals on this earth, and it’s also important to understand to not go overboard an expect an entirely positive experience of aging, because it’s not all positive. The key is to hold both positive and negative influences in balance, and really understand and own the aging process. On average, individuals forty years and older, report feeling 20% younger than their actual age, which is a good tendency that can serve a useful psychological purpose.
“By distancing yourself from your age, you also distance yourself from negative age stereotypes,” says David Weiss, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Science at Comumbis University. The solution may be considered trite, but experts say it’s crucial, “to embrace aging, the good and bad,” says Geriatrician Bill Thomas, co-founder of changingaging.org.
Dr. Thomas says it’s important to look at not just the negative changes that take place as we age, but also the positives, such as developing our interpersonal skills, relationships, expertise, and knowledge. As an example, you may no longer be the runner or tennis player you once were, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt your game or walk fast instead of running, or find other outlets with similar results.
One technique showing promising results, is identifying with one’s generation, such as my generation, “baby boomers”, being proud of the differences we made in our culture, is an effective way to embrace a more positive conception of older age. Professor Wiess found that older individuals who thought more about their generation optimistically, reported better health and well being.
Another solution is moderate exercise. While the health benefits of physical activity are widely known, a 2012 study shows that moderate exercise can also leave us feeling better about the aging process. Actually, studies have now shown, daily physical activity can add a minimum of five years to your life.
This study, done at the Berlin Medical Center on 247 women, ages 70 to 93, were divided randomly into three groups. One group attended a computer class, another group took an exercise program, and the third group was told to do what they normally do.
“After six months, the exercise group reported the highest level of satisfaction with aging,” said Verna Klusmann, Psychologist at the University of Konstanz and Breman.
“These women were more physically fit, more alert, and had better executive functioning. The positive experience of physical activity affected their health and well being, not only beneficially, but also, improved their attitudes about aging,” Dr. Klusmann said.
As a rule of thumb, moderate exercise of thirty minutes a day five days a weeks is recommended, and it doesn’t have to be thirty minutes at a time. It can be broken down into two fifteen minute sessions, one in the morning, and one sometime later in the day.
And last, but by far not least, is routinely getting the proper nutrition and supplementing your diet with an all natural whole food supplement, for added assurance in maintaining
health and well being.
Eating fresh and organic, as is humanly possible, well-balanced nutritious foods is a requirement for all ages, but, as one ages, it becomes increasingly more important. This can’t be over emphasized! All efforts should be made to purchase fresh, organic, non-GMO (genetically modified) fruits and veggies from a small local farmer or roadside stand, at least nine months out of the year, or as long as it is available. Fresh lean meats bought should be organic grass-fed beef, and organic free-range poultry. Fresh fish and seafood should be acquired from a local fish market known for fresh products (*).
Reduce the intake of fast foods, prepackeged, preprocessed, precooked, foods. Foods high in animal fats, processed meats and cheeses, vegetable oils and margarine, white breads and white rice, and sugary drinks, should be avoided. Drink at least eight eight-ounce glasses of filtered water daily.
Supplement your diet daily with the natural, organic, non GMO, whole nutritious food ‘Adaptogen’ Maca, to be certain you are getting the proper nutrition. To discover the wide-ranging benefits of this incredible natural Adaptogen Maca plant, and why you should supplement with it, please read the following reviews:
- How To Get Healthy Stay Healthy
- Relieve the Havoc Natural Healing Maca Plant
- Natural Remedies For Hormonal Imbalance
(*) For more information on FRESH, CERTIFIED ORGANIC, GRASS-FED LEAN BEEF, and FRESH ORGANIC, FREE-RANGE POULTRY, read this article WHAT IS IN MACA ROOT?
Now that you know the basics on how to stop aging now, there are some other recommended simple daily activities that will assist you in maintaining better health and well being as you age, and they can be found in this article LEARN GENETICS. Do you have questions? Please contact me and I will provide the answers. Your comments are welcomed below.