As the youngest of three daughters, I have always looked forward to growing older. When my sisters got to stay up and watch “The Twilight Zone,” I was upset that I had to go to bed. Once they got their driver’s license, I grew impatient for my turn. Now I find that wanting to be older than I was has actually helped me age better. That’s because I viewed getting older as a good thing.
Our attitude about aging has an effect on the way we age. That has been established in study after study. In an October 19 story in the Wall Street Journal, Anne Tergesen reports: “How we feel about getting old matters. A lot.”
Most adults under the age of 65 think that they will have memory problems as they grow older. But among adults age 65 and over, only 25% are found to experience memory loss. Similarly, nearly half of the population figures they won’t be able to drive later in life, yet of the 65-plus population, only 14% cannot drive.
Research shows that too many of us are expecting serious problems to be part of aging when that doesn’t have to be the case. This isn’t just about an inaccurate projection. Tergesen writes: “In test after test, researchers are finding that if we think about getting older in terms of decline or disability, our health will likely suffer.”
Here’s one way to not buy into the hype: become more aware. Start by describing in writing your view toward older adults. Then take the Harvard University Implicit Association Test. Click on this link. At the bottom of the opening screen, click on “I wish to proceed.” Then scroll down and select the Age IAT.
Using the “e” and “i” keys on your keyboard, you will respond as quickly as possible to the images and words shown, and after the short test you will be given your results.
If the test results indicate that you have a bias against older individuals, use that information to motivate you to seek out positive information about aging. Learn the facts and do your part to keep your body in good shape. Embrace your aging process. After all, there are those who will never have the privilege of growing old.