How do you feel about aging? Answer that one question, and you can predict your future.

Do you perceive aging negatively? If you do, it’s probably because you have internalized the negative cultural stereotypes about aging.

Stereotypes of aging in contemporary culture, particularly North America, are primarily negative, depicting later life as a time of ill health, loneliness, dependency, and poor physical and mental functioning.
Stereotypes of Aging: Their Effects on the Health of Older Adults

These stereotypes do not reflect the truth about aging.

Beware of  “anti-aging” thinking. It can be hazardous to your health.

Aging,  like many aspects in life, seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The way you perceive aging can actually influence how you age. Your thoughts on aging are strong predictors of health – behavioral, psychological, and even biological.

Choose anti-aging thinking, and invite harm. Choose pro-aging thinking, and improve your chances of aging well.

The Research

This review shows that both positive and negative stereotypes of aging can have enabling and constraining effects on the actions, performance, decisions, attitudes, and, consequently, holistic health of an older adult.
— Stereotypes of Aging: Their Effects on the Health of Older Adults

Being “pro-aging,” or satisfied with your own aging, can make you adopt healthier behaviors, feel in control of how you age and even heighten your immune system. Being “anti-aging,” or perceiving aging negatively, can do the opposite.
— Dr. Sharon Horesh Bergquist, 5 powerful benefits of “pro-aging thinking –

In test after test, researchers are finding that if we think about getting older in terms of decline or disability, our health likely will suffer. If, on the other hand, we see aging in terms of opportunity and growth, our bodies respond in kind.
— Anne Tergesen, To Age Well, Change How You Feel About Aging

People who believed negative stereotypes about old age had higher risk of Alzheimer’s.
— Mandy Oaklander, Your Attitude About Aging May Impact How You Age | Time

Choose anti-aging thinking, and invite harm. Choose pro-aging thinking, and improve your chances of aging well.

The Truth about Aging as Told by My 72-Year Old Self

The Truth About Aging

My sister Michele, our dear friend Helen, and me (Carol)

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

As today is my 72nd birthday, I feel qualified to comment on the truth about aging.

There are pluses and minuses, for sure.

The Minuses

There are the changes in physical appearance. Unsightly facial hair, wrinkles, unattractive knees, sagging and bagging body parts. These things creep up so slowly that they catch you unawares!

There are the frustrations of car travel.  One of my favorite activities is to take day trips. But my driving skills are declining, and I can’t sit for long periods of time. This limits the choice of destinations, especially if I am the driver. I want one of those new cars that drives itself!

There are health issues. You just never know when your next one will crop up. And of course it’s tough to see loved ones grapple with their health problems.

The Pluses

I think the biggest plus of aging is a better perspective on time. I recognize my own mortality, and that makes every day precious.Even if I’m not feeling tip-top, even if I’m going through a tough time, even if I’m worried about someone else.  It’s imperative that I wring the most out of every single day. To put it plainly, I am better at living in the present.

You’ve heard the advice “don’t sweat the small stuff.” When I was younger, I found this to be quite difficult. Now, with my improved perspective on time, it’s usually quite easy.

I am more resilient than I used to be. These words, taken from President Obama’s recent speech, may help explain why:

Scripture tells us that in our sufferings, there is glory, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I feel more connected to other people. I am less judgmental and more empathetic.

I feel more at one with planet Earth, and with the universe at large. To be honest, I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because it helps me believe in an after-life. Perhaps it’s because the more experiences a person has, the broader her vantage point. Whatever the reasons, it’s an amazing new perspective!

I like myself better that I once did. While I certainly value other people’s opinions of me, my own opinions of myself count more. I can be freer in my words and actions, as long as I do no harm.

I have a healthier relationship with money and material things. I want for nothing. Money is best spent on experiences and on others.

I have a growing treasure of memories. These accumulate naturally as years pass. Don’t miss Joy Sussman’s wonderful article, Life Before Cell Phones (A Super-Nostalgic Mini Memoir). Although Joy is younger than I, she and I share many of the same memories. And Joy’s memoir captures the essence of what memories can mean to us. The positive psychology movement recognizes the value of savoring.

I am trying to take better care of myself. Not because I want to reverse the aging process. Because I want to give myself the best health, and the highest quality of life, for as long as possible.

On Balance

Overall, I am satisfied with my own aging, putting me squarely in the “pro-aging” camp!

Miss Marple’s Spot-On Guide to Aging Well by Chris Hewitt

Chris Hewitt is the author of Miss Marple’s Spot-On Guide to Aging Well.

If you’re seeking tips on how to be fulfilled and challenged in your 50s and beyond, you could do a lot worse than looking to Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.

The Tao of Miss Marple:

  • Keep Learning New Things
  • When Adventure Presents Itself, Grab It
  • Some People Underestimate Older People. Use This To Your Advantage.
  • Your Brain Is Your Biggest Asset
  • Don’t Ignore Your Health

Choose anti-aging thinking, and invite harm. Choose pro-aging thinking, and improve your chances of aging well.