Quality of Life As We Age

Do you want to live a longer, fuller life? According to assistant professor of Psychology Eric Kim, from the University of British Columbia, and an affiliate researcher at the Lee Kum Sheung Center for Health and Happiness at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, it IS possible. Kim contends that if we change our minds about what aging means, then we are more likely to enjoy the latter years of our lives.

If we are taught that aging=decrepitude, when the numbers tick by on the calendar pages, it may feel like something to dread. On the other hand, if we view aging as a time of rebooting and renewal, we may find success waiting for us in ways we may only have imagined in our youth.

The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services estimates that by 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older (65+) persons, more than twice their number than in 2000.

There are physical realities to aging that we will probably not applaud:

· Stamina and flexibility wane.
· Eyesight changes, usually for the worse.
· It may take longer to do things we had done previously without even thinking about it.
· Bones are more fragile.
· Cardiac blood vessels and arteries stiffen which means that the heart needs to work harder.
· More frequent urination.
· The possibility of arthritis.
· Changes in mobility.
· Skin may become thinner and more susceptible to bruising.
· Short term memory lapses. For what did I come into the room? What is that person’s name?
· Changes in sexual functioning.
· Loneliness and isolation as we face the death of loved ones.
· Being confronted with our own mortality.

All these items can be tended to, with varying degrees of success, with healthy eating, connecting with family, friends and community, regular medical checkups, refraining from smoking, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake, movement, fitness activities, getting fresh air, volunteering, spiritual practice (if you are so inclined), listening to music, reading. And, working with a therapist who can assist in reducing stress and developing healthy coping strategies.

The upside of aging:

· With age comes the opportunity for wisdom. One way to describe it is knowledge plus experience.
· Slowing down and becoming more mindful.
· Being a lifelong academic learner.
· Acting as a role model or mentor for younger people.
· Learning not to sweat the small stuff.
· A greater willingness to speak your mind.
· Reinventing yourself.
· Improved ability to regulate emotions.
· Learning from experience.
· Lifetime friendships.
· The opportunity to let others take care of you as you have taken care of others.

In a study called Defining Successful Aging: A Tangible or Elusive Concept,? the various historical constructs around aging reveal the importance of viewing this time in our lives through a bio-psycho-social lens. People who made a major life/career change after 50 include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Roy Croc, Grandma Moses and Julia Child. These successful people inspire observers of all generations.

The world is in upheaval now, in ways that rival WWII, the Depression, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of MLK, JFK and RFK, and the Kent State massacre. Elders have lived through those times. Some shrug their shoulders and turn a blind eye to the current state of affairs, while others are gathering up their fortitude and speaking out in ways that can create positive change. Some of that may be based on their experience as activists and community leaders. Some see the call to action as a way of creating a better world for the next generations.

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” ~Mark Twain

“I believe the second half of one’s life is meant to be better than the first half. The first half is finding out how you do it. And the second half is enjoying it.” ~Frances Lear

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