Successful Aging

Aging does not inevitably bring an end to engaging in challenging, rewarding activities. We are all aging. While you are reading this you have become the oldest you have ever been. To live is to grow older. That means we can all look back on our lives with satisfaction or regret, and we can look forward with hope and enthusiasm or with dread. How will you look back on your life ten years from now? Are you making good decisions that you can look back on with satisfaction, or with regret? In the things you did? The things you failed to do?

Dignity or Despair?

When we’re young, we put off doing things. We think we have plenty of time to do this or that. Aging has a way of changing that outlook. People who have lived richly and responsibly develop a certain sense of integrity or self-respect. This allows them to face aging and death with dignity. If, on the other hand, we view our life with regret, we will instead feel despair, heartache and remorse. Life can seem like one long series of missed opportunities. That person can feel like a total failure. He or she knows there is little time left to reverse what’s been done or what is still unfinished. Aging and facing death can then become the source of fear and depression. 

There’s Still Time

Fortunately, there is still time left to squeeze joy, happiness and satisfaction out of the remaining years. We now live longer than previous generations. Most elderly people are not sickly or senile. Today 60 is the new 40 and only five percent of people over the age of 65 are living in nursing homes. Mentally, intelligence test scores of those over 65 are equal to men half their age. Typically, the older generation remains working and stays intellectually active (Salthouse, 2004), and most will remain mentally sharp in their old age, if:

  •  You remain healthy.
  •  You live in a favorable environment (you are educated, have a stimulating occupation, above average income, and an intact family).
  •  You are involved in intellectually stimulating activities (such as reading, travel, cultural events, continuing education and professional associations).
  •  You have a flexible personality.
  •  You are married or partnered to an intelligent spouse.
  •  You maintain your perceptual processing speed.
  •   You were satisfied with your accomplishments in midlife. (A short summary of this list might be “those who live by their wits will die with their wits” (Schaie, 2005).

Wisdom Beats Quick-Wittedness

In spite of aging, very little loss of job performance occurs. In fact, in some professions, wisdom and expertise usually more than compensates for any loss of mental quickness (Erickson, 2000). 

Here are a few keys to successful aging and characteristics shared by the healthiest, happiest people:

  •  Optimism – hope and interest in the future.
  •  Gratitude and forgiveness, and the ability to focus on what is good in life.
  •  Empathy – an ability to share the feelings of others and see the world through their eyes.
  •  Connections with others – have the ability to reach out, to give and receive social support.

As a group, older people represent a vast and valuable source of skill, knowledge and energy that cannot be allowed to be cast aside.

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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