It probably comes as little surprise to you that aging is a mindset. We know that our thoughts and perceptions shape our worlds. But would it surprise you to know that people with more positive attitudes on their own aging lived approximately 7.6 years longer than those with negative views?
Older adults who opt for a growth mindset are more likely to adopt healthy behaviors (healthy sleep and diet habits, exercise, and seeking help with health problems especially seeing and hearing). The more that seniors felt their abilities were changeable, the more they perceived the benefits of healthy lifestyle changes, which increased their intention and motivation to continue to make changes. A growth mindset also helps seniors to cope better with anxiety, and stressful and traumatic life events that occur as a part of the aging process.
The opposite also rings true. Those seniors with a fixed (read: negative) mindset showed poor cognitive performance in studies, specifically in episodic and working memory performance. But it’s not only what we think…it’s what others think as well.
Ageism, negative stereotypes about seniors and aging all contribute to societal negative attitudes about growing older. Some of these stereotypes are formed as early as childhood and are baked into our cultural upbringing. Some are the result of our socioeconomic status in our early years. Other negative stereotypes come from how seniors are treated. For example, caregivers in a nursing home setting who infantilize their charges with baby talk, removing choices they deem inappropriate, and other regressive behaviors help not only perpetuate the negative stereotypes of aging in others but also in the people who they are in charge of providing care.
What is one to do? It’s clear that the answer lies within ourselves. We need to hold ourselves accountable to a positive mindset. Transforming our own attitudes requires a little effort on our part but is achievable. A few ideas of how to keep our golden years as such include:
- Practice gratitude
- Be curious
- Seek out new people, new places, new experiences
- Challenge yourself
- Keep learning
Need help with cultivating a positive attitude towards retirement and aging? I’m happy to help.