Happy senior people doing exercises in gym to stay fit

Throughout our daily lives, there are consistent reminders that aging is negative. Ageism throughout our culture is rampant. We all believe, talk about, and behave like getting older is so negative. The word “ageism” was created by Dr. Robert Butler in 1969, and describes discrimination against elders, patterned on the terminology of sexism and racism. It labels older people as being out of touch, stuck in their ways, and not capable.

These views among all ages are very prevalent and need to be combated.  A 2020 National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 82% of older Americans reported experiencing ageism regularly. Just look at the media coverage of the current President and past president’s ages and the negative comments on how it effects their physical, mental, and cognitive health and behavior.

We all need to think about positive aging, or aging well and how we do it. In order to accomplish this, we need to incorporate the physical, emotional, and mental health elements. By incorporating these elements into our aging process, we will develop a positive life that’s rewarding, lively and healthy. There are lots of behaviors that contribute to your physical, emotional and mental health as you grow older, and there are some clear signs that you’re taking care of yourself in these ways.

One element to incorporate into your life as you get older is to activate your brain by learning new things. Cognition is critical, so we have to continually learn new things, keep stimulating the brain, and learn new skills. We also have to acknowledge to ourselves and our family and friends what we do need and communicate it to help start the cognitive and emotional learning process. It is suggested that you learn a skill like a language, trade or read a book, all of these will help keep your brain active and alive.

Positive aging comes when you socialize and have a community to interact with. Isolation and loneliness are huge factors in a lack of mental stimulation, as well as emotional and physical health. Dealing with loneliness and isolation can be accomplished by connecting with friends, family, meeting new people through volunteer activities, and joining various social groups.

Talking with friends or new people in person, on the phone or via Zoom is clearly a way to enhance emotional and mental stimulation that creates positive, healthy aging. Northern Nevada is just beginning a program, Connections Central, that brings people together to talk among themselves and create friendly relations, which then in turn helps facilitate positive aging.

Another area that helps create positive health aging is physical activity. Clearly, we need to keep moving as we age. The documentary “Blue Zones,” which studied 100-year-olds around the world, explored the reasons why certain populations live to be 100. One of those factors was that they kept moving their whole lives. Exercise and maintaining muscle strength and cardio fitness are critical for positive health and aging. Certainly, the fear of falling is a factor to take into consideration, but physical activity and muscle strengthening help combat that. And contribute to positive health aging through physical activity.

Positive aging is enhanced by being positive. It sounds a little simple, but think about this. If your attitude towards life is positive, it results from doing enjoyable things. I personally work at enjoying each day the best I can, even if things don’t work out the way I was hoping or expecting. Negative things happen, and if you focus on them and do not move on, you will live a negative life as you age. Even with illnesses, we can overcome them and develop a positive life. I have a very powerful personal experience in which I fell and hit my head, losing all function in my arms and legs. After a month-long hospital surgery to drain the blood in my brain, I had therapy for 6 months. After another 6 months of rehabilitation, I regained total function. Needless to say, this was very traumatic, but I kept my mindfulness and positivity, which helped get me through this very negative event. I am now even more aware of how my daily positivity impacts my life.

In summary, positive, healthy aging can be the normal way of viewing life and getting older if we all focus on our physical,mental, and, emotional health. Be active, purposeful, connected, socialize, and enjoy every day. What better way to “add life to years.”