Doing Life Together

older coupleI have no idea what it is like to be aging into my 80s or even 90s. But in so many conversations with aging people, the aches and pains of aging seem prominent and dominate discussions. So often I hear, aging as a curse to living. I know how different my body reacts at my age, add another 20-30 years to the process and it must be difficult. It can’t be easy to grow old.

Yet, I also notice that my almost 95-year-old father rarely talks about his physical ailments. Is he on to something? Could we learn from his embrace aging attitude?

Researchers say, YES. Attitude towards aging matters. Negative stereotypes are connected to poor health results.

And yet we live in a culture that basically puts you out to pasture when you get to a certain age. We have bad feelings about aging. Becca Levy, an associate professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, calls our negative stereotypes about aging, “a public-health issue.”

The mind is powerful when it comes to impacting the body. Thinking matters. If you focus on the decline, the disability and what you can’t do, you feel worse. But if you see aging as new opportunities with growth, your body responds in kind. In fact, studies have shown that negative attitudes show decline in handwriting, memory, recovery from disease, and more.

This doesn’t mean we should deny the effects of aging and live in a fantasy. The effects of aging are real, but where you choose to focus matters. When we change our focus from the negatives to the benefits of aging, we feel better. Add exercise and eating well and we make changes that are in our control.

Perhaps we should apply Philippians 4:8 to the process of aging: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

God, not just my dad, is on to something!

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