All men should strive to learn before they die, what they are running from, and to, and why.
-James Thurber

As reported on Beliefnet:

Are you looking forward to being useful, happy, and healthy in your old age? Or do you feel you'll probably be sickly, lonely, and of little use to others? Whichever answer you chose, you'll probably be right. In fact, Dr. Becca R. Levy from the Yale University School of Medicine has discovered that self-fulfilling prophecy is perhaps stronger in our golden years than anywhere else.

In a longitudinal study-a study that follows the same participants over a period of years-Dr. Levy and her associates asked over 600 people-ages 50 and up-in an Ohio town how they felt about their own old age. Gauging answers to statements such as "as you get older, you are less useful," the participants were categorized as having positive or negative attitudes towards aging. Over thirty years, Dr. Levy found that even she was very surprised by the difference that perceptions and attitude made. The people who expected to have a useful, productive, healthy old age were not only physically healthier and happier, they lived an average of 7.5 years longer than their negative counterparts. Her research also showed that the subjects who had negative perceptions about aging had much more negative physiological and cardiovascular reaction to stress.

So, how do we average people make sure we're on the sunny side of the street? Becca Levy asserts that it's crucial to be aware of the negative messages society sends about aging and older adults, and to choose not to believe them. Instead, find positive role models of active, healthy, happy seniors and expect to be like them. Chances are good that you will!

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Also on Beliefnet:

  • Aging Mindfully by Ram Dass

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