Jun 28, 2012

How to Get Old

An email came in last week from a representative of a website called Get Old.  I know...that caught me by surprise too.  Talk about telling it like it is.  But the more I thought about it the more I liked it.  Let's get old and get real....not a bad idea actually.  The site is sponsored by Pfizer.  In their mission statement they express the desire to "...inspire and activate people of all ages to reconsider what it means to get old...."  When you visit the website you are asked to become a part of an ongoing survey about your attitude toward aging and then add to the conversation.  You can have your say in 1000 characters or less. 

I like the idea of changing the perception of aging in the eyes of those that see it as something very negative and dreaded.  Get Old has an Infographic that stopped me dead...oh my gosh...I have been singing to the choir.  I should have been talking to the 30 something set and not the boomers+ generation.  The survey done by Gallup and Robinson reveals a disturbing picture of dread and it is the young people that are the most apprehensive.  But as people get older they begin to grow less anxious.  In fact a whopping 51% of those between the are of 50 and 64 felt they looked younger than they really are.  It probably follows that a large percentage feel younger than they expected to. In my world, how we feel about our looks and life can overcome all the negatives.  

Last year I wrote a post entitled  Headline (paraphrase): "OLD PEOPLE STILL ABLE TO LEARN!" Successful Aging Survey.  The first paragraph went like this:
I am all about aging successfully. When I talk about "success" in this context, I am not talking about the absence of health problems or financial success. Successful aging, in my world, happens in the 6 inches between you ears. So when I came across an article telling us that indeed, old people are aging successfully, I thought it was wonderful.
The idea for the story came from a news story:  Researchers: Seniors can Learn New Skills Despite Growing Age told about a talk given by Dilip Jeste, MD, Director of the Institute for Research on Aging, University of California, San Diego.  Essentially he said that old people can learn new things.  I was astonished that the anyone would think that being old halted learning.  I can recount so many story of seniors starting a new business or hobby, learning, growing, and flourishing.  The fact that someone like Dilip Jeste, MD, needed to do a extended study to find that out seemed ridiculous. But there you have it...we can still learn even when we get to that mythical milestone called "old age".  Surprise!

Like the survey done by Pfizer, the study done by Dilip Jeste hint that positive perceptions can overcome negatives.  The wise seniors knows from experience that successful aging happens as a result of our attitudes not as a result of some mythical physical standard.  Jeste told Medscape that speculations on aging is done without much information.  He used a study of 6000 women to develop some very interesting findings.

  • There is not much information on aging successfully. Most articles focus on all those negative maladies.  
  • Because of all the negative information promoted in most material, research writers and the new media have not focused on aging successfully.
  • People that see themselves as aging successfully do so because they are able to remain mentally active.
  • Illness does not affect their perception.
  • Not everyone is resilient and can recover from changes in their lives.  However, this is not necessarily because of good genes.  Good attitude and healthy life choices account for 50% of a persons ability to adapt to changes related to aging.
  • Studies have shown that the brain of old people continues to grown and develop.  Those that put their minds to good use age more successfully.
  • It turns out that exercise is good for the mind as well as our emotional well being.

I think that Jeste is telling us that the perception about aging is born of misinformation.  We will get old.  That is inevitable.  But how we feel about it could be shaped by the way aging is portrayed in our culture.  Even a teenager who really wants to be grown up might rethink their wishes if they were told on a daily basis that being grown up meant such a loss...no more jump ropes or slumber parties or whatever they loved about being a child.   What if we told them from the day that they were born that being grown up was dark and dingy and hopeless.  They very well could be a failure at being grown up.  They might be ugly or it will be really hard physically or they will want more money than they can make.  Then tell them that they have no choice in the matter...being grown up just sucks but it is going to happen no matter what!  Talk about depressing!  Well, that is what we are fed by the financial experts and media articles on aging.  I even think that the ads that show seniors riding mountain bikes flying over rocks and bushes and staying up all night rocking out are unrealistic enough to make someone that is approaching old age very uneasy.  Really people, most younger adults out grow that sort of thing and move on.  The truth is aging is another stage in our life and a very good one at that.  Moving on is as natural as anything a human will ever do.

So, I think I have been singing to the choir.  I have built this blog around the idea that I could share my thoughts with other seniors.  In fact, I should have been talking to much younger people.  They are the ones that need to see that life is not changed by the fact that they have another birthday or come to a crossroads in their career or must be careful about their money or even suffer some illness.  When they continue to learn and grow and take adventures and read and communicate, all the wrinkles become unimportant.  They will not miss what they cannot do anymore because they will be busy doing what interests them now.  It really is much like growing up...who really wants to be a teen ager again or forever.  Not me!

b

PS  Shelley pointed the trailer from Advanced Style in her comment. Copy and paste it into your address line to see it.  You are going to like it.






5 comments:

  1. Hey B,
    Great reading. Still hate my sun damage on my face... the drooping I am learning to live with. I am going to try posting a link I found on a website called Zoomers.ca.
    I just love these women!
    Shelley

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nope didn't work. Will try it from here. It's a movie trailer from "Advanced Style"
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nWKTfqivbRQ

    ReplyDelete
  3. Shelley,

    Yes I know what you mean...gravity will have it's way but I have come to blame the mirrors in my house. I am sure that are all broken or malfunctioning.

    Post the trailer in the blog post too. I love Ari Cohen.

    b

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very good points about aging positively. Or as my Dad always said about getting older, "It sure beats the alternative!"

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, Barbara, found your blog from a post in the blog Satisfying Retirement. This article is interesting in that I don't feel like I'm aging except on my birthday! A friend said, 'we don't feel like what we thought it would feel like' and that made sense to me.

    Attitude is everything. Age is a case of mind over matter - if you don't mind, it don't matter.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    ReplyDelete

I don't publish anonymous comments. But if you want to identify yourself, I would love to hear what you think.

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