A study in 2012 showed that men and women 70 and older, who were recovering from disability, were 44% more likely to recover fully due to positive attitude toward aging.
The Power of Happiness for Seniors and Elders
One could safely assume that, between being happy and sad, a majority of us would choose the former. After all, it’s when we’re happy that we tend to be more productive and treat others with kindness and respect. That’s not to say that experiencing all facets of human emotion isn’t important. For instance, when faced with the death of a loved one, it’s vital that we go through each stage of grief in order to process the event in a healthy way.
However, with advanced age and the increased frequency of some of life’s more negative experiences (e.g., death of family/friends, injury, and chronic illness), it’s not uncommon for older adults to be confronted with feelings of increased stress. And prolonged stress can potentially lead to things such as isolation, loneliness, and depression. The key to overcoming this as we age? As research indicates, one of the healthiest ways to combat moments of stress and adversity is through having a positive attitude toward aging itself.
Senior Attitude: Mind over Matter
A recent study out of North Carolina University found that those who viewed aging positively were more resilient when dealing with stressful situations. Conversely, those with a more negative outlook tended to experience higher negative emotional effects. Why does this matter in the overall scheme of things? The more negative our emotional responses are to stress, the more damage we inflict upon our body, perhaps without knowing it. Positive attitudes, on the other hand, are thought to help delay/reduce the risk of cognitive decline and cardiovascular damage.
Of course, this doesn’t just happen magically. There are factors that drive one’s positive attitude, one of which is self-perception. The way you view your ability to meet an objective can in many ways dictate success or failure – often referred to as a self-fulfilling prophecy. As an example, a study was conducted in 2009 with two groups of older adults that were tasked with taking a test. It was communicated to one group that older adults often do poorly on tests, while the other group was not told. Not surprisingly, the group that was told that older adults do poorly on tests did, in fact, do poorly, compared to the other group. As it turns out, the physiological culprit is cortisol, one of the body’s primary stress hormones. As self-esteem diminishes, cortisol levels increase and our ability to perform becomes, in essence, sabotaged.
As mentioned, it all comes down to positivity. With exposure to positive experiences that benefit the mind and body, seniors can alter their perception about getting older. Here are a few of the ways older adults can not only build up their self-confidence and resilience, but also maintain a positive attitude.
Tips to Help Seniors Build and Maintain Positive Attitudes
- Stay connected with others – Maintaining and nurturing existing relationships is certainly important, but meeting new people can help provide older adults with a world of new possibilities. Again, the key is to surround yourself with others who are a source of positivity.
- Give back – Research suggests that feeling useful is associated with physical and mental well-being, and fulfillment. Whether it’s finding a way to teach or mentor young people or volunteering time to provide a community service, giving back can preserve self-worth.
- Keep the brain exercised – Continue to engage in mentally challenging activities and learn new things. Often times, seniors will enroll in a class or join a group to do just that. This is beneficial not only for their mental stimulation, but also for their social well-being.
- Maintain physical activity – Incorporating at least half an hour of moderate physical activity (particularly aerobic exercise and strength training) into one’s daily routine is vital for well-being. The goal with any exercise is to elevate the heart rate, but it should never be painful. Be sure that your loved ones consult a physician before starting a new workout regimen.
- Set personal goals – Similar to learning a new skill, setting (and accomplishing) personal goals helps provide a strong sense of control and fulfillment. Most importantly, meeting goals instills a strong sense of independence. Whether it’s doing an exercise routine five days in a row or completing a project at home, when we are able to look back on what we’ve accomplished within a set span of time, it gives us that much more fuel and motivation to tackle what lies ahead.
- Minimize stress – Although it’s impossible to escape some of life’s stressful situations, it’s important to find the best personal method for overcoming feelings of negativity, in a healthy way. The tips above can serve as a place to begin, but your loved ones may choose to go another route. Whether it’s deep breathing or taking a walk outside, finding the right techniques for relaxation can do the mind and body a great deal of good.
Comfort Keepers® Can Help
Above all, independence is a critical component of building and maintaining a positive attitude toward aging. Through a wide array of services, our Comfort Keepers® will work to encourage your loved ones and see that they progress toward their goals. Contact your local office today to learn more about our services.
- Psychology Benefits Society. “10 Tips for Positive Aging: It’s Not Your Same Old Business.” Web. 2013.
- Senior Journal. “A Positive Attitude is Good for the Health of Senior Citizens, Research Proves.” Web. 2017.
- HeathLine News. “A Good Attitude Is Crucial Medicine for Seniors” by Kristen Fischer. Web. 2016.
- U.S. News – Health. “Ageism, Attitude and Health,” by Lisa Esposito. Web. 2015.