There isn’t a fountain of youth, but there is an art to aging gracefully.
In 2015, New York Times journalist, John Leland, set out to interview a group of people, 85 years old and older, about aging. But what started as an interview turned into a collection of lessons on the power we wield over the quality of our own lives. Over and over, this theme emerged in his conversations. He eventually named his book about the interviews, “Happiness is a Choice You Make.”
Now, a research team has backed up Leland’s reflections on aging with data. According to a recent study, the more satisfied you are with your life while aging, the more likely you are to have improved health and well-being.
The study used data from previous health and retirement research that spanned a four-year period. The data included 13,752 US adults over 50. The average age was 65 years old and about 64% of the participants were married. When investigators analyzed the data, they saw that participants who consistently measured higher satisfaction in aging saw improved physical health, better health behaviors, improved psychosocial well-being and lower loneliness.
For example, take the analysis of better health behaviors. Participants who had the highest aging satisfaction also had a 23% increased likelihood of repeated and frequent physical activity. They also experienced a 23% reduced risk of sleep problems.
But helping people age with satisfaction may be easier said than done. In a culture that glorifies youth, how do we help aging populations find satisfaction and feel valuable? The founding father of geriatric psychology, Dr. Gene D. Cohen, believed in helping aging populations see possibilities instead of problems with aging. He posed aging as an opportunity for new, rich experiences where one can renew a passion or reinvent themselves.
So, how does the passing of time affect you? Are you excited about new ages and stages of life or are you longing for old pastimes and bygones? Clinging to the old days may ironically make you less healthy and less youthful. Henri Matisse famously called his wheelchair-bound years after abdominal cancer at age 72 “his second life.” During this time, he was inspired and created one of his most famous collections, Jazz. Take it from Matisse – don’t let aging change your quality of life.
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