Age isn't a number, it's a state of mind
Posted on 11th July 2018 at 07:45
Yes, we know it’s a bit of cliché, but it doesn’t stop it from being true…
We’ve all met – or know (!) – people at both ends of the age spectrum. Those who seem to be old before their time. Or, perhaps, have always been old in terms of their outlook on life. David refers to them as “Junior Pensioners” which may be slightly uncharitable but a good way of describing them (!).
Sadly, their glass always seems to be half empty… “It can only get worse.” “It’s all downhill from here.” “What can you expect at my age?” And we heard these all – and more – from someone in their 30’s recently…
Then there are those who never seem to age. Who are always fully engaged in life and all the – good – things it has to offer. And, interestingly, many of them have problems that would be the end of the world to their less positive counterparts. Their glass is always half full.
Some of the most interesting and engaged people we know are those are in their late 80’s and 90’s. They enjoy life, are interested in what’s going on around them and enjoy a good debate about a huge variety of subjects, often with a completely different perspective to that we take for granted.
A great example of this is one of Elaine’s lovely clients who’s in her 90’s and always starts every conversation with “please don’t tell my sons what I get up to”. A request Elaine is very happy to comply with, given the stories that follow and the things she gets roped into “helping” her with!
So what is it that makes all the difference?
Well, as we’ve already mentioned, your default setting – if that’s the right word – plays a key part. Whether your glass is half full or half empty. In other words whether you tend to be more positive or negative in your outlook on life.
While some may say this is set at birth – and so an unchangeable part of who you are – we would say that it isn’t quite that simple. True, whatever tendencies you may have can be built on by the family environment you were brought up in, your friends and experiences.
However, as you get older and become more independent, you have much more choice over how you live your life. Not only in terms of who you choose to spend your time with – and the path you choose to follow – but also in how you see yourself and the world you live in.
Sometimes this is forced on you by circumstances beyond your control. Sink or swim. Other times it may be more of a voluntary process, where you start to realise that certain perspectives or beliefs no longer help you and it may be time for a rethink.
A great example of this change in thinking is where people decide to age backwards when a “key” birthday is reached (!). Whatever the reason, the way life is experienced changes for the better and you “move on.”
Equally important is having a reason to get out of bed in the morning. And, we’re not talking about the need for an urgent visit to the bathroom! It’s all about having a purpose in life. Something you enjoy doing and gives meaning and interest to your life. It doesn’t matter how large or small it may be, just that it’s important to you, regardless of what anyone else may think.
An often ignored, but sobering fact, is that a large number of people die within two years of retiring. Why is this? Quite simply because they’ve suddenly lost a core part of their life and haven’t found anything to replace it. Whether you love or hate your job, it forms a huge part of your life. Take this away and it’s not surprising that so many people struggle for identity and purpose when they retire.
Similarly, contact with people – humans are sociable animals after all – and having meaningful relationships is also vital. Strong communities and family relationships play an important part in traditional societies and are attributed to long lives in poorer countries. Interestingly, it’s also the one factor that comes up again and again when talking to older people about what they miss most from their childhood.
And, finally, let’s not forget that remaining mentally active is only one part of the equation. Being physically active is equally important. Walking and gardening are daily activities mentioned by many of those in their 80’s – and beyond – with a sizeable number still doing the more strenuous jobs in the garden, including digging their vegetable plot (!).
Of course there are lots of other factors we could mention but these are the ones that come up time and time again both anecdotally and from research. As does having a good diet but, all going well, regular readers of this blog should know that by now (!). It’s not only about putting fuel in the tank; it’s about how we value and look after ourselves, both of which contribute to a long and fulfilling life.
Before we finish, there’s lovely poem that perfectly sums up – not (!) – getting older by Jenny Joseph:
“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.”
As always, the choice is yours.
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