Positive aging is a branch of positive psychology—the study of what makes life worth living—that highlights techniques and policies that help the aging population to develop more resilience. One of the first tips from the psychology of positive aging is to stop internalizing the negative stereotypes all around you. Television streams a barrage of drug commercials serving as a regular reminder of the potential symptoms (hair loss, incontinence, and arthritis, to name but a few) you may experience as you grow older.
While you can’t ignore the effects of aging, what you can do is reduce the fear of lonliness, idleness, and illness that can feel overwhelming by looking past these stereotypes and finding examples of people thriving after retirement. You can also prepare by eating and doing the right exercises.
Look at Lil Hanson, the 104-year-old Michigan native who is still teaching yoga. When you start to gather evidence to support the belief that it is not only possible—but probable—that you will live a long and fulfilling life, it helps to counteract the negative stereotypes all around you.
In 2015, the World Health Organization recognized that making better choices in the later years of your life gives you an opportunity to be productive, active, and to continue developing. Positive aging is a movement toward a society that celebrates the aging process at all ages.
Positive aging supports people of all ages in the following ways:
· Achieving their full potential
· Fostering better solidarity between generations
· Respecting and encouraging engagement economically, culturally, and socially throughout life
· Creating a society where equality, independence, participation, care, self-actualization, and dignity are the prime objectives
Well-being subjectively appraises how people experience their lives. As you age, the criteria for well-being and successful aging include the following:
1. Positive relationships
5. Ability to accept change
6. A sense of humor
When these six criteria are fostered, optimal function and enduring satisfaction can be the outcomes. How can you take the research of positive aging and apply it to your life?
Moving Your body
It is important to keep active with a focus on balance, strength, and mobility. Additionally, bone health through gentle weight training and cardiovascular fitness is important. It’s also crucial to ensure that you are sleeping well and awake feeling rested. What you fuel your body with needs to be a focus, too, as digestion and diet need to change with age. Jumping, hopping, and moving in new ways is beneficial for the body as you age. Yoga and a mobility practice are great for all ages to keep your body and mind active.
Keeping Your Brain Active
For many years scientists believed that the brain stopped developing new neural pathways after the first few years of life. This meant that critical periods of development were from birth to five years of age, and brains would only be malleable during youth. The new science of neuroplasticity has identified the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. This phenomenon explains the brain’s ability to adjust and cope throughout life. Functions once lost due to degeneration can be relearned or regained through new neural connections. You may have heard stories about people experiencing a miraculous recovery of speech after a stroke where the speech center of the brain was entirely damaged. These are examples of neuroplasticity at work. Sometimes symptoms of disease and impairment can be entirely mitigated by the brain’s ability to reorganize using brain workouts or brain retraining. A great way to increase neuroplasticity is through meditation!
Keeping a Vibrant Social Like
People of all ages need a strong sense of social connection and purpose to maximize well-being. Nurture your existing relationships and take advantage of the new stage of life to form new ones. Starting new friendships and projects or joining new groups help keep you feeling vital and engaged.
You age a little every day. Embrace your age and enjoy your life!