Attitudes Towards Aging
Aging is an inevitable part of life. As you grow older, you will have developed your own attitudes and beliefs about your age, body, and mind. No matter your age, everyone will have their own ups and downs that they will have to navigate through. Your mindset could be affecting your outcomes.
Many common views about aging depend on one’s age. Younger generations (ages 15-35) likely have positive attitudes towards aging like gaining independence or increasing income and knowledge. However, they may also think negatively about aging and may see it as a “disease” due to increased risk of health issues, weakening of sensory abilities, or developing wrinkles. Older generations (ages 36-65) may see the positive aspects of aging such as retiring from work, becoming wiser, or having grandchildren. They may also fixate on the negative aspects such as the higher risk of health and physical complications, loneliness, or living on a fixed income. Your attitude regarding growing older plays a significant role and may either improve or worsen your self-esteem as well as your quality of life.
Negative attitudes towards aging are more likely to result in both physical and mental health consequences in older adults. As people age, they may become less optimistic about the state of their health and body. An aging body may no longer be able to cope with harmful environmental influences, or personal health and lifestyle choices like it was once used to. Weakened immune systems, high blood pressure, heart conditions, cancer, hair loss, wrinkles, or a decrease in muscle mass are all common while aging. An aging mind and body may be more vulnerable to catching diseases or experiencing physical fatigue, memory loss, or weakened sensory abilities like hearing or vision loss. Although these may be common, these experiences have a negative psychological impact on elders.
With a higher risk of common health conditions, many elders begin viewing themselves in a negative light, much like how the society around them usually views the older population. This societal misconception causes many elders to start to perceive themselves as a burden or less valuable, which may increase the risk of depression, social isolation, or loneliness. Negative attitudes towards one’s health or life– with or without health conditions– result in neglecting proper treatments or decreased motivation to maintain a healthy life. Refusing proper care is shown to cause damage to mental and physical health— in turn affecting the quality of life.
Positive aging is a term used for adopting a positive view of aging as a healthy and normal part of life. A media journal called Psychology Today stated that a positive attitude surrounding aging may be a “fountain of youth,” implying that positive self-perceptions slow down the aging process, lead to many improved lifestyle factors, and may even add years onto one’s life. More than 70% of adults under the age of 50 believe that their lives will improve within their next 10 years of life, while only 19% over the age of 65 believe the same. It is important to be optimistic about what the next decade will bring and remain excited about living a longer life. As mentioned before, it is common to have many health conditions as your body and mind begin to age. Whether you have a health condition or not, maintaining an upbeat and proactive outlook on life as you age may contribute to better health and optimal aging, including longevity.
Attitude is everything. No matter your age, negative attitudes will worsen your experience, whereas positive attitudes typically lead to a more enjoyable experience. Those who held positive views about their aging process were shown to live approximately 7.5 years longer than those with negative perceptions. The more that the general population embraces positive mindsets around aging, the better the overall population may age, while also increasing the quality of life. It is important that we all work to change the negative views surrounding aging and instead promote positive attitudes and outlooks that facilitate optimal aging results.
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