Age is Merely a Number with Planning (and Some Luck)
Which factors make the most difference to our quality of life as we age? What can we do to increase our overall happiness while increasing our ability to remain independent? As Aging Life Care Professionals®, we see a lot of different reactions to the aging experience. Aging is a very individual journey: we have some clients who are totally independent, very active, and involved in their 90’s, and others in their 70’s, who have been virtually bed bound for years.
In the fast-paced world we live in, where ageism often prevails, it is essential to remind ourselves of the profound impact that our mindset can have on aging. We’ve seen this time and time again…two clients can have the same number of chronic health conditions, but one client remains much more active and welcomes each new day. The other client, with the same medical issues, rarely leaves their home and most of their outings involve a doctor’s appointment. What’s the difference in these two scenarios?
At Elder Advisory Group, our mission is to provide the best possible care and support for our aging clients, while recognizing that age is not a barrier but merely a number. I’ve drawn inspiration from a thought-provoking 2014 article published in The New York Times, titled “What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set?” It explores the significance of adopting a positive mindset and how it can empower both caregivers and older adults alike. We see it every day in our work and you can promote this attitude for your own benefit and the older adults around you.
The Power of Perception
The article on mind-set presents various studies that demonstrate how individuals with a more positive perception of aging tend to lead healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lives. A psychologist named Ellen Langer ran a number of studies involving elderly subjects. In one, Ms. Langer found that nursing-home residents who had exhibited early stages of memory loss were able to do better on memory tests when they were given incentives to remember — showing that in many cases, indifference was being mistaken for brain deterioration. In another, now considered a classic of social psychology, Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules during the day. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group.
When we perceive aging as an opportunity for growth, wisdom, and continued purpose, it can counteract the limitations often associated with getting older. This positive outlook becomes a catalyst for promoting better physical health, mental well-being, and a stronger sense of self-worth.
Encouraging Active Lifestyles
We actively promote the adoption of an active lifestyle for our elderly clients. By encouraging regular physical exercise and engagement in meaningful social activities, we can foster a more positive and vibrant outlook on life. One of our clients had a debilitating stroke but through rehabilitation and determination, she regained her independent lifestyle, including periodic solo driving trips to her second home in Colorado.
Marc Middleton, author of “Growing Bolder” puts it this way: “When it comes to aging, we’re all victims of brainwashing–deceived by an ageist culture, misled by the media, lied to by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. It’s time to fight back. If we change our beliefs about growing older, we can change the way we age.” He’s on the forefront of the fight to regain our ability to determine our own destiny and not be defined by societal forces.
Embracing New Challenges and Learning Opportunities
As we age, it’s essential to continue embracing new challenges and learning opportunities. Older adults who engage in mentally stimulating activities often experience improved cognitive functions, reduced feelings of isolation, and enhanced emotional well-being. We encourage our clients to explore new hobbies, join clubs, or even pursue further education. By encouraging a mindset that views aging as an exciting journey of continued growth, we empower older adults to remain active contributors to their communities and families.
Building Strong Support Systems
An integral part of our approach to geriatric care management is the creation of strong support systems. It’s crucial to nurture an environment where older adults can share their thoughts and feelings openly. The support of caregivers, family members, and peers plays a vital role in maintaining a positive mindset as one navigates the aging journey.
By fostering an atmosphere of respect, compassion, and genuine care, we empower older adults to express themselves without fear of judgment or prejudice. This nurturing environment enables them to maintain a strong sense of purpose and belonging, irrespective of their age.
Embracing Age with Guidance
As we draw from the wisdom of the past, the message remains clear: age is nothing but a mind-set. At Elder Advisory Group, we believe in the transformative power of a positive outlook on aging. By embracing age as a number and not a limitation, we can unlock the true potential of our clients and help them lead fulfilling, joyful lives.
Through encouraging active lifestyles, embracing new challenges, and building robust support systems, we redefine what it means to age gracefully. Together, let us continue to challenge ageist stereotypes and empower older adults to live with dignity, purpose, and happiness, every step of the way.