More research is surfacing about the relationship between our views of aging and will to live. A collection of articles published in the National Library of Medicine continue to show that longevity is increased by positive perceptions of aging. One of the articles’ lead authors, Becca R. Levy, says that when aging is seen as a time of decline, helplessness, and dependency, these individuals tend to experience more stress. They also engage in fewer activities related to healthy behaviors. In contrast, people who are more active and have a stronger will to live hold views on aging that are more positive.
Dr. Levy is a psychologist and epidemiologist at Yale University. She has a new book, Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs about Aging Determine How Long and How Well You Live. It is well established, she says, that people with positive age beliefs live longer, 7.5 years on average, that those with negative beliefs.
We know, she states, that ageist beliefs are still common, with frequent negative portrayals of older adults. We often attribute things that affect an older person as due to his or her age when there could be other factors at play. Others still question the contributions of older adults to society.
Let Go of the Self-limiting Beliefs
What Dr. Levy writes about in her research and book is valuable. But it is most important to assure that our own self-perceptions are not tainted or skewed by our chronological age. After all, the National Institute of Health reported that only 30% of our longevity is attributed to our genes, while 70% is due to lifestyle factors! This is a huge message. We have much more control over our future years than we ever thought possible. And much of it starts with our self-perception and our own attitude about aging. Let’s dismiss the self-limiting views and continue to open new doors. Let’s remember we have the maturity, wisdom, compassion, tolerance, and independence to embrace a positive notion about growing older. As Kane Tanaka says (see Living to 100 Club March Newsletter), as great as the memories are, focusing on the future is so much more important than the past.
Dr. Joe Casciani is the owner and Chief Curator for the Living to 100 Club, a source of solutions to living longer and healthier, with a special focus on mindset and attitudes about aging. He has a 40-year history as a psychologist and manager of mental health practices specializing in behavioral health services with older adults. In addition to his work as a clinical consultant, he is an engaging and inspiring speaker, and helps audiences move beyond their questions and concerns about aging to create a vision of what is possible in the years ahead. He strongly believes there is value in helping people feel inspired about their future.