By Manfred Diehl, PhD (Co-Chair, APA Committee on Aging)
All of us are aging by the day, whether we are willing to admit it or not. We usually dread talking about getting older, but there is actually good news that should give us reason to embrace our own aging. The good news is: We can optimize our own aging and can work toward successful and healthy aging. We just have to let go of our negative views of aging, think of growing older as an opportunity, and adopt a “can-do” attitude.
Over the past several decades, psychologists and researchers from other disciplines have convincingly shown that there are good reasons to rethink the stereotype that aging means primarily loss and decline—at least not until very late in life. Indeed, there are a growing number of studies showing a great deal of “plasticity” in adult development and aging. That is: Even the average Jack or Jill possesses reserve capacities that they can activate to improve the way in which they grow older. Aging is not the same old business anymore! Positive aging is possible!
Here are 10 tips—all based on solid research—that any person can adopt with the goal of increasing his or her chances of successful and healthy aging:
- Stay physically active: This includes daily exercise for at least 30 minutes. Aerobic exercise is good for brain function in older adults. Strength training is good for your bones and muscles.
- Exercise your brain: Engage in mentally challenging activities and don’t stop learning new things. Embrace and seek opportunities to exercise your brain.
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Maintain normal body weight, eat healthy food in small portions, don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation, and adopt good sleeping habits.
- Stay connected to other people: Treasure and nurture the relationships with your spouse or partner, your family, friends and neighbors. Reach out to others, including young people. Stay involved in your community.
- Create positive feelings for yourself: Experiencing positive feelings is good for your body, your mental health, and for how you relate to the world around you. Feeling good about your age is part of this.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff: Don’t worry too much. Be flexible and go with the flow. Don’t lose sight of what really matters in life.
- Set yourself goals and take control: It is important to have goals in life and to take control in achieving them. Being in control of your actions gives you a sense of mastery and leads to accomplishments that you can be proud of.
- Minimize life stress: Stress has a tendency to “get under your skin”—if you notice it or not. Try to minimize your stress. Learn to unwind and to “smell the roses.”
- Have regular medical check-ups: Take advantage of health screenings and engage in preventive health behavior. Many symptoms and illnesses can be successfully managed if you take charge and if you partner with your health care providers.
- It is never too late to start adopting any of these behaviors.
Remember: Life is a journey. So, make the best out of it and enjoy the ride!
We want to hear from you! Tell us in the comments:
What other steps can we take to age positively?
To learn more about APA’s work on aging issues, check out APA’s Psychology Topic: Aging and the Office on Aging.
You may also be interested in:
APA’s Aging Issues newsletter
Life Plan for the Life Span
Psychology and Aging