Aging. Our society views this as a four letter word. Since the industrial revolution, older adults have been stereotyped as unable to learn, a burden to our fast paced society, frail, depressed and sick. We each have seen or have first-hand experience with older adults dealing with chronic illness or loss of cognitive function. Our “anti-aging” society is also a constant reminder of how not to age with the multitude of anti-aging products. When you consider these factors, it’s no wonder that we associate aging with negativity. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to know that there is an option, that indeed we can successfully age?
What looks like successful aging? It looks like Maia E, a 95-year-old whose is cognitively sharp and who lives independently. Her secret: simplicity, daily exercise and gratitude. It’s Doreen N. who at 105 years of age, still volunteers, walks to work and does a crossword puzzle each day. It is George B. who bowled three times a week and won two championships at age 100, attributing his success to being active and doing what he loved. You may think that these are rare cases, but scientists and Gerontologists are proving that successful aging is within the reach of all of us.
Every day 10,000 of us baby boomers will turn 65 until 2030! We know exercise and diet are important but what else can we do?
The answers are incredibly simple, but as a society we need to embrace them and be willing to not only educate ourselves but our children and grandchildren. The first step is to raise our awareness to our misconceptions. We are a product of our society and knowingly or not, we may practice ageism. Ageism is a word coined by Dr. Robert Butler, a renowned physician and gerontologist in the field of aging. He defines it as “discrimination based on age, especially prejudice against the elderly.” So let’s take this first step together and just be aware of yourself the next time you are in the presence of an older adult. How do you interact with them? As a baby boomer (the generation that questioned it all and fought for social rights!) do you want others (your children and grandchildren) treating you with a certain stereotyping?
The next step after awareness is to learn from those who have successfully aged. Americans love listening to “experts”. Well, our older adults are the true “experts” in living life. We have an opportunity to gain from the wisdom of this great generation. These true life experts show us that there is a common theme among those who have positively aged. A few of these factors are:
- Keep your brain active;
- Practice simplicity;
- Keep a positive attitude; and
- Keep a strong social network.