by Jennifer Crowley BSN RN CLCP CDP
The strength of a person is often measured in the ability to lift heavy objects or perform repetitive, physically exerting tasks. Western culture often emphasizes the productive and younger, active worker, with a billion-dollar anti-aging industry wrapped around everything we do. We offer encouragement of being strong when someone is struggling during a difficult time or about to embark on a journey involving something new or challenging. The emotional side of strength is perhaps more important in aging than physical strength, although there is no questioning the value of physical well-being. Chances are, if you are reading this, you’ve already survived a lot. You’ve been through life’s biggest moments, experienced the anticipated highs and unfortunate lows. In many respects, emotional strength is more important now than ever. As we go through life, there is no avoiding certain adversities, such as injury, illness and possibly the death of a loved one. There is increasing evidence to suggest the attitude of an individual will help them live longer and have a healthier life. Understanding your own expectations and perceptions about aging can help improve your outlook and offer a reflection which may lead to positive change. Do you envision yourself being vivacious, regardless of age, rather than unable to do things like before or disabled? Do you celebrate each year, the accomplishments and the learning which can come from experiencing hardship? Too often, our emotions are drained and lead us to a dark place of despair if we were to focus on loss rather than gains. It can be difficult, that’s for sure. We are constantly inundated with messages conveying a negativity about aging. The aches, the pains, the boredom, the fears. Fear often causes avoidance of preparing for an aging life which is thoughtful and prepared. Establishing positive thoughts and expectations can help influence how you age and improve your overall health. It may take practice, especially since you’ve probably had a lifetime of hearing negative stereotypes related to aging. Write down your thoughts and expectations and determine your mindset. Next, attempt to create only positive statements reflecting where you are today and what you expect for tomorrow and beyond. Chances are, the life you really want includes everything positive. Being loved and giving love, participating in life, having independence, creating a beautiful space, following your passion, pursuing hobbies, and having optimal health, regardless of illness or disability. It is vitally important for older adults to “reconfigure” the way they have always done things. Trying to accomplish things the same way they were done 20, 30, 40 years ago might not work anymore. It’s a new phase of life with new ways to make things happen. Sometimes, just looking at the way we are trying to do something and tweaking it, or even just changing our perspective, can be very powerful. Thinking positive about aging can help increase strength and resilience, providing a feeling of control and empowerment to live life to the fullest, regardless of age.