How a positive attitude to ageing can add years to your life
A positive attitude to ageing can add an average of 7.5 years to your life, according to a paper published by Yale University. Their research found that the more positive older individuals were about ageing, the greater their will to live, which contributes to a longer, more fulfilling life.
In our society, ageing tends to be seen as a negative. Youth, beauty and productivity are admired. Conversely, we’re told that grey hair and wrinkles are bad, that we will become very sick and frail, and be a burden on society.
The prevelance of ageism means that these stereotypes about ageing are acquired decades before a person becomes old and are therefore rarely questioned. But if we accept them as the truth, we risk becoming what society tells us we will – frail, dependent and out of touch.
While the reality of our biology means that ageing is inevitable, ageing doesn’t need to be a negative experience, says Bonnie Robinson, HBH Senior Living CEO. “Having a positive outlook, staying in touch with what is happening in the world and having a purpose in your life definitely helps people age well.”
“As with any age, older people who are more resilient and can cope better with stressful events, uncertainty and hardships seem to fare better,” she says. “It’s even better if older people are socially active, which is one of the many reasons we ensure daily life is busy, spontaneous and fulfilling at HBH – to give seniors more social connections and a common purpose.”
“Yes, physical challenges will start to creep in as you age,” says Bonnie. “But it’s not freedom from disease that’s important. It’s the self-belief that despite any challenges, you’ll be able to continue getting the most out of life. Those who have an optimistic attitude will attend to the challenges and acknowledge the positive.”
The study also showed that the effects of a positive mindset about ageing had a greater impact on life expectancy than low blood pressure and cholesterol, each of which is associated with a longer life span of about four years. It also had a greater impact on longevity than lower body mass index, not smoking and regular exercise – each of which extends life by one to three years (of course, you also need to keep attending to all those health matters!).
So, although we have a lot of work to do to rid our society of ageist attitudes, as individuals we should try not to think too much about the downsides of ageing – focus on the good things, get plenty of sleep, eat, well, exercise and learn new things. Your more positive attitude might just add several years to your life and most importantly, life to your years!
Age is mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. – Mark Twain