Positive Aging

View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers
“Positive Aging” is a real mixed bag!
Loads of people talk about it, write and blog about it, upload videos about it, and make a lot of money promoting some manufactured version of it. If you Google “positive aging” and sort your results by images, you get a good visual of what is wrong with the concept. It’s a lot of happy and optimistic old white people golfing, riding scooters, playing bocce ball, rowing boats, or laughing with children. The images contain beaches and golf carts, salon-fresh hair styling, and professionally whitened teeth. Missing from the pictures are assistive devices like wheelchairs and rollators, lumpy backsides from wearing incontinence undergarments, and stains on shirts or blouses from lunchtime drips. The faces do not show the stress of financial insecurity, grief at the loss of a spouse, pain from persistent illness, or loneliness. These Google images show a very specific kind of “positive aging,” if not a bit exaggerated or detached from reality.
While researching for an article I’m writing about “positive aging,” I was lured into the 627 comments made by readers of an on-line New York Times article on the subject. In this instance, it turns out the comments were more interesting and valuable than the article itself. Each commentor had an important thing to say about what it meant to them to age positively and together; they make a great list to consider [edited slightly for clarity]:
  • Making peace with the things you can’t change.
  • Letting anger go about some disappointing people, including, unfortunately, a close relative or even an adult child who is shutting you out without explanation.
  • Not being angry with your spouse before going to bed.
  • Taking care of myself enough to minimize all the pain.
  • Reading in a big comfy chair is very enjoyable.
  • Doing mat exercises every morning before breakfast.
  • Going bike riding and walking outdoors when the weather allows.
  • A good blast of music at a blues bar gets me up dancing now and then – it’s amazing what the adrenaline can do!
  • Enjoying preparing a healthy and delicious supper in the evening.
  • I like the phrase “Aging Gratefully.” Says it all for me.
  • Being born with good genes. It’s that simple.
  • Keeping the mind and body active.
  • My favorite motto: “Getting old is not for sissies.”
  • Thank heavens I can pay the help I need. I pray for those who cannot.
  • I try to keep in mind something I only applied to myself after my kids came along. We only celebrate at the *end* of each of our years. We have to complete each one first; a one-year-old has finished her first year. you need to earn your time and should rejoice in the reward of each year granted to you.
  • My philosophy is “eat real food- not processed junk,” exercise/ stretch/ weight train, stay out of the sun, and don’t abuse your body with substances.
  • I am doing everything I can to live longer, including swimming almost every day, eating lots of fruits and veggies, living without stress or guilt, and enjoying time with those I love.
  • Avoiding stress and keeping the focus on oneself.
  • Keeping it simple. Living with as few possessions as possible; and most importantly, not being bothered with anyone that tells you what to do or how to live!
  • Stop dying my hair.
  • Bicycling 10 miles per day, running a marathon, and walking 7000 steps a day.
  • Eating the Mediterranean diet.
  • Being blessed with genetics, a bit of luck, access to simple food, and a “c’est la vie” attitude while living life.
  • Rodney Dangerfield on aging: “If I take very good care of myself…I’ll get very old and die.”
  • Let me impart the big secret of aging positively: money.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Keeping abusive substances to a minimum, if any at all.
  • Eating properly.
  • Staying mindful—living well strategies won’t help if you absentmindedly step off the curb and get hit by a cross town bus.
  • The moment you realize that the next year of your life could very well be the last, ditto for the next month, the next week or especially today, is the moment you’re on your way to living the most meaningful life you can. The rest will take care of itself.
  • Knowing, accepting, and planning for the fact that the days ahead of you are fewer than the ones that are behind you is bittersweet. Sobering yet tranquil.
  • Realizing that you don’t have to do any longer what you don’t want to do.
  • Learn how to manage money well early in life.
  • Look into a well-recommended Continuing Care Residential Community and move there while you are still young enough to enjoy it fully as an independent resident.
  • Keep reading and studying and particularly so via the internet.
  • I’ve tried to eat a Mediterranean diet but getting to Sardinia three times a day was just too much.
  • Few will admit it, but old age is fun if you can laugh and have a friend or two.
  • Good, tasty breads with real butter, good soups with little sodium, real tapioca with blue berries and a chance to walk in the warm sun, such delight. Listening to your favorite music helps.
  • A simple maxim that can be applied to our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves no matter our age: you rest, you rust. Keep moving however you are able, shift perspectives, change an attitude, learn something new…always evolving, living in the present and finding silver linings even when the clouds hang low are all ways to feel ageless.
  • What about ageing “meaningfully”? Using the abilities we still have to make meaningful contributions to our families, our communities, our nation and our planet. Using our mental facilities to bring joy to ourselves and others. Learning. Making art, even if it’s appreciated only by ourselves. Helping children.

The essence of the list is to have a cheerful outlook and attitude, have good help, and have money. And I wonder: What does “positive aging” mean to you? What does “positive aging” look like to you? What do you need to have in place in order to age positively? If certain things are missing in your positive aging image, what do you need to do to reverse this? What’s in the way of you aging positively?

Get in touch with me and we can explore positive aging together.


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Gary M. Groth, MS, PCC, CPCC

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