We all have something in common. We’re getting older.
While this fact might delight children who can’t wait to be “grown-ups,” it is often a source of angst for those of us who have already “grown up.” There are approximately 76 million baby boomers in the United States, and their ages range from the early fifties to the early seventies.
It’s not surprising that this demographic is often bombarded by the media with anti-aging everything: skin creams for every part of our bodies, miracle “cures” for our wrinkles, youthful colors for our hair. They all promise to make us look younger — to fix us. Botox and facelifts have become the norm for many people (men and women), and again, there is cosmetic surgery available for almost every part of our bodies.
Well what’s wrong with that, you might ask? What’s wrong with wanting to look better (though “better” is subjective)? I get that and I know that looking good can translate into feeling good. To be perfectly honest, as someone who is well into the baby-boomer age range, I dye my hair. I’ve easily resisted all the other anti-aging remedies, but can’t seem to come to grips with having gray hair. I would look so old.
And that’s the big issue here, I believe. We as a society are resisting aging instead of embracing it. Instead of reveling in our gray hair or well-earned wrinkles, we despise them. Instead of marveling at our aging bodies and how they have stood the test of time, we are repulsed by them. Instead of recognizing and valuing the wisdom and compassion that come from age and our life experiences, we fixate on our failing memories and decreased stamina.
We focus on what we have lost, not what we have gained. And this attitude hurts us.
This study, published in 2012 in The Journal of the American Medical Association, examined the relationship between attitudes about aging and recovery from disabilities. Researchers found that seniors who have positive outlooks on aging are 40% more likely to recover from a disability than those with negative attitudes.
So how can we feel better about aging? Is it as simple as ignoring the anti-aging ads on television? Maybe not, but it’s a start. Like so many things, it’s all about how we look at it — how we choose to view ourselves and those around us.
Surely feeling well can help us look at aging in a more positive light. Living a healthy lifestyle as we age not only benefits our bodies, but also our minds. For example, eating a healthy diet can stave off illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and possibly dementia. Getting enough sleep might also reduce our risk for these diseases. Exercising not only keeps us limber, but also releases those all-important endorphins which trigger positive feelings. Socializing and continuing to explore our passions are important as we age, and studies have shown that those with a vibrant social circle live longer than those with few social ties.
The bottom line is we cannot change the fact that we are aging, but we can change how we view the process. When we talk with children who can’t wait to grow up, we often say, “What’s the rush? Enjoy being young. Enjoy NOW.”
Well, the same outlook should apply to all of us. We can’t turn back time any more than we can fast forward it, but we can be mindful and embrace this moment we are in right now. Let’s age wisely by not trying to hold on to the past, or by dwelling on the future. Let’s live our lives in the best possible way — today.