“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
It turns out this truism applies to the ways we perceive the aging process itself. Research shows that older adults who view aging as a time of continued learning and development are physically more resilient. They seem to weather a setback and regain their mobility and independence more readily. They stay healthier and live longer than their peers who view aging primarily as a time of decline.
As a society we tend to hold aging in a negative light. But studies have found that advanced years do indeed bring many benefits. When compared to younger generations, for instance, older adults generally are more able to
- focus on the positives
- tune out the negatives
- relax and accept who they are
The wisdom of aging may be that older adults recognize life is too short to “sweat the small stuff.” And with accumulated years, they have developed more coping skills for life’s inevitable rough spots.
Get this self-fulfilling prophecy working in your loved one’s favor! Try asking some of these questions to help him or her identify the special strengths of aging:
- If you were suddenly 20 again, what skills or wisdom would you miss?
- What has helped you through hard times in the past? Look for ways to emphasize these skills or resources.
- What people, activities, or situations tend to leave you feeling positive? Consider ways to emphasize these resources. For many older adults, family and social interactions bring the greatest joy.
- What is the ‘gift’ in your situation right now? With aging, we frequently come to realize that in every situation the good coexists with the bad. Even people with incurable diseases can usually identify something positive they have learned as a result of their condition.