Positive Aging


Successfully Transitioning to Senior Status with a Positive Attitude

According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 Baby Boomers will cross the threshold to 65 years of age every day for the next nineteen years. In 2015 Booms represented 74.9 million Americans, those between the ages of 51 and 69. Boomers don’t believe that old age starts at 65, however. According to research, a typical boomer believes that old age begins at age 72. And while half of American adults feel younger than their age, 61% of Boomers say they feel nine years younger than their chronological age. The concept behind a senior citizen feeling younger than their age, engaging in late stage life with hope and optimism, and effectively dealing with the aging process is referred to as positive psychology.

More about Positive Aging:

A textbook definition of positive aging might look something like this – “an experience of satisfaction from past events along with hope and optimism for the future along with happiness in the present.” More specifically….a concept that our individual choices affect how we age. It is a viewpoint, or state of mind, that even in the face of physical and mental decline, through personal choice and coping, one can age well. Further, aging well means that it is possible to defer age related decline well into 70’s and 80’s through proactivity including reframing negative memories to positive emotions.

Age Well – Mobilize Resources: Resource mobilization is a coping mechanism to diminish the negative aspects of physical and mental decline due to aging. Resource mobilization requires preparation and self motivation. In preparation for age related decline (50% of those who live to be 85 will experience age related disability) pre-seniors must acknowledge what is inevitable then mentally prepare how to cope. Two examples of coping mechanisms are 1) Assimilative Coping – Approaching situations in new ways in the event aging prevents the attainment of a goal or desired activity. A simple example is a senior’s inability to read the newspaper. The senior would simply use eyeglasses. 2) Coping via Accommodation – Accommodation is permanent and involves an attitude or preference shift if one cannot reach a goal. Continuing to use the eyeglass theme, an example of accommodation is as follows. If a person still cannot achieve the goal (reading the newspaper) with eyeglasses, then the person must alter the goal and receive their news via another source; perhaps the radio.

Make Productive and Health Oriented Lifestyle Choices: Another characteristic of positive aging involves choice. Examples of positive choice are a) preservation of function b) lifelong learning c) mental preparation to lose friends and family members.

Starting with function, the practice of making healthy lifestyle choices need not wait until a person is elderly. People may make the choice for an exercise regime or a healthy diet at a much earlier age and pave the path for better function in old age.

Lifelong learning is a theme emphasizing personal development. There are programs available to seniors to enrich their personal growth. Examples are learning a new language or learning a new skill to facilitate a part time job or volunteer work.

Rich relationships are important across the entire lifespan, and it is inevitable that certain members of one’s close circle will die. As people age they must develop grief and coping strategies to deal with these losses.
Be Flexibile: As people age, life circumstances change. Unexpected events alter hope for future. Goals may be shattered because of illness or death. Flexibility involves adjusting goals with a positive attitude. If one employs flexibility in the face of change, and if one learns to regulate emotions, good health is promoted. Another term for flexibility is adaptability.

Maintain A Positive Focus: Pessimism and problem focus are dangerous bed fellows. Maintaining a focus on positive solutions is a powerful coping strategy. Regardless of health, social or financial positions, it is possible for one to remain positive in the face of growing old. A positive focus allows a shift in perspective from fear to gratitude. Remaining positive and grateful are two of the most powerful traits to enable positive aging.

Polly Sykes, Registered Psychotherapist, MEd, RP, is a Toronto Psychotherapist with extensive post-graduate training and experience in the treatment of Trauma, and the use of Emotion-Focused Therapy for both Individuals and Couples. The support of an experienced and highly-skilled Psychotherapist can be a powerful tool to help you face the challenges of life with more hope, more self-acceptance, and stronger relational bonds.