As you age, you experience a multitude of mixed emotions. Confusion, resentfulness, and even feeling upset are some of the things that older adults complain about. These are natural reactions to getting older and entering a brand new phase of your life. However, aging doesn’t have to mean losing your purpose or feeling helpless. Keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor makes aging much more tolerable.
“As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.”-Sir Norman Wisdom
There are events and senior citizen centers that ensure you have something to look forward to every day. What matters isn’t what you have available to you — it’s about what you decide to do with the resources you have. We live in a world where there are so many things to enjoy. It is our minds that we must program to seek and absorb the joy.
It’s completely understandable why retirement and aging can be so scary. You’re no longer full of youthfulness and energy, and you have an abundance of time. It can become exhausting because there is so much you’d like to do when you no longer have your younger years' physical strength.
With positive aging and keeping a healthy outlook towards life, your senior years can be some of the best years of your life. Getting older is inevitable, so you should try and remember that you can find a new purpose and continue getting the most from life.
The key to positive aging is to think about what successful aging means for you. If you’re unable to meet your ideals of what a successful senior citizen's life should be like, you’ll feel resentful. The art of successful aging can be described as being in good health, independent, maintaining important friendships and relationships, and learning and growing as a person.
“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly and lie about your age.” — Lucille Ball
As you age, many events take place that will affect your state of mind. The end of your career, the loss of a spouse, and the feeling of slowly losing your independence are real concerns that will take a toll on your mental peace. However, it is up to you to process the pain you feel without letting it consume you.
These obstacles are life-altering, and in many instances, you will go through significant emotional turmoil as you experience them. However, as part of your positive aging process, you need to accommodate these changes into your life without letting them weigh you down.
So, what’s the secret behind positive aging?
Positive aging is about remembering to appreciate and care for yourself despite the physiological, financial, social, and emotional changes that you go through. It has been proven that being compassionate towards yourself is a prime indicator of how positive you will be as a senior citizen. Instead of putting yourself down and beating yourself up for not coping as your life changes, you have to remind yourself that you are doing your situational best.
Aging is difficult, and you’re the only one going to be there for you throughout the entire experience. So it would be best if you were an understanding, forgiving, and compassionate friend to yourself.
One major reason we cannot see ourselves positively when we move towards old age is the stereotypes we were exposed to as young adults. These stereotypes about aging become your actual perceptions about yourself once you have reached your senior years. Positive aging includes understanding that these stereotypes affect how you assess your life and work towards making an active change in your mindset.
Having less energy, needing to move carefully, becoming dependent, or leaving your job does not necessarily have negative life changes.
Even if you feel like they are restricting you from doing your favorite activities and bring you a sense of shame, many aspects of your life have only just now become available to you as well. For example, you have grandchildren that you can spend more time with. You can travel or take up gardening full-time, something you could not do when you were busy building your career. You can use your life’s experiences to spread knowledge to younger generations or take up a hobby you never had the resources to take up before.
Finding a new purpose
The majority of senior citizens experience depression and a sense of helplessness because they feel like they have lost their sense of direction. When you have to let go of a routine that you have had for several decades, it makes sense not to know what to do with your life anymore. You will naturally be depressed at the thought of not having your job and daily routine to look forward to.
When you’ve stopped working, you also stop having anything to think about for a major part of your day. If you used to invest a large part of your time and energy on thinking about your job and the work that needed to be done, you’d suddenly realize that you no longer have anything to keep your mind occupied.
To work on this new vacancy in your mind, search for new ways to stay busy. You can spend your time tending to your house, renovating the rooms, or looking for a new home that is smaller and more practical. If you’re living with someone, keep yourself busy by helping in the kitchen and helping out with the grocery.
Stay physically active
Not only does physical activity reduce stress, it keeps your body healthy as well. Aging comes with its fair share of health conditions, chronic diseases, and a weakening immune system. The earlier you start keeping a watch on what you eat and incorporate exercise into your daily routine, the easier it will be to stay active.
Not being active can be the start of a life of dependency. If you do not keep a check on your weight and blood sugar levels, you might become a heart disease or person with diabetes. Obesity is one of the major reasons older adults have to rely on someone else to help them get through their daily activities.
If there are certain obstacles to being fully physically independent, focus on what you can do despite them. If you are unable to stand for too long, invest in a shower chair. If you can no longer walk to the store, buy a bus pass that will get you through the entire month. The more you focus on what you cannot do rather than the possibilities that are still available to you, the more negative your mindset will become.
If you’re looking for reasons to see yourself as helpless, those will be all that you notice. If you start looking for opportunities to maintain a certain level of independence, they will be easier to spot. Remember, once you become dependent on other people to support you, it becomes harder to break the habit.
Stay mentally active
Many senior citizens who have lost their physical and financial independence and are patients of chronic disease continue to positively see their lives. This is because they are still mentally active and maintain the ability to communicate with other people. They can still understand what is going on around them and remain active members in their social and family circles.
If you stop working on ways to keep your mind active, you won’t keep up with interactions. Being able to hold a conversation and keep genuine relationships is imperative to feeling good in old age. Keep up with the news, read new books, and try your hand at learning about social media. You can stay in touch with distant friends and relatives this way, which will improve your wellbeing and give you something to look forward to every day as well.
Focus on your mental health
The key behind aging positively is psychology. You cannot positively take on aging if you do not check how you perceive yourself. Looking back at the life you have lived plays a vital role in how you understand yourself.
If you think back to how your life has been and do not acknowledge your achievements, you are setting yourself up for resentment and regret. Whether you made it through trying financial times or coped with the loss of a loved one, you have to give yourself credit where it is due. You have to remind yourself that you have lived a prosperous and active life, so there is nothing to look back at and wish you could change.
Statistics indicate that when we think about how successful our life has been, we think about how fulfilling it was and how satisfied we are with everything we have done. It would help if you had a positive perception of the life you have lived to move forward with the life you have left. If you feel like there was more you could have done or mistakes you should not have made, you will spend your senior citizen days recounting the past instead of looking to the future.
People who let the negativity of the circumstances consume them become stressed and exhausted. If you can change the way you see your situation and perceive it as another challenge you have to overcome, you will be less likely to suffer from poor mental health. However, if you focus on how you did not deserve to have these obstacles come your way and feel helpless instead, you are more likely to stay stressed out and become a victim of depression, constant worry, and anxiety.
You always need to remember the life events that have happened, even the ones as significant as the death of someone we had known all our lives are not in our control. We cannot change the experiences that we have already gone through, and thinking about them in your later years will only increase the anxiety and guilt you feel. The task of hanging onto negative baggage inhibits enjoying today.
The way that we react to these life-changing situations is, however, in our control. We can choose to either see them as instances that have passed and have left us with a lesson to learn and a wound to heal, or we can use them as a reason to fill our thoughts with sadness. Although it is acceptable to feel emotionally drained from major life events, if you let them become the sole focus of your life, you will start to lose your emotional and physical health.
You still have a future to make
Many people in their senior years spend all their time looking back at the could-haves and the would-haves. For them, the life they had lived until they started to grow old was the prime time of their existence. However, this is only another inherent belief that we need to let go of.
As long as you are alive, there are things to look forward to and a future to make. Resigning yourself to nature and waiting for your time to come is a horrible way to spend your days. Thinking that you are purposeless as soon as your career ends is an extremely negative belief. Holding this kind of mindset will only make you feel more helpless.
If you can’t encourage yourself to keep finding ways to make your life enjoyable, you will start to isolate yourself. Human beings thrive off of connection, so you are only subjecting yourself to a cruel life. Remember, everyone is here for a reason, and just because you are older, you do not have to sit back and wait for life to take you wherever it wants.
You have the ability to train your brain to keep finding learning opportunities. You can keep growing, both emotionally and mentally. This is the only way to keep looking forward to a new day. You can look through your community centers for learning opportunities or take walks around your city parks to learn more about the wildlife there.
You can look for adoption opportunities and take a young child into your home. You can even become a speaker or a teacher for community classes or events. Think about all the life that you have lived and remind yourself that there are people in the world that might need the knowledge you have gained from your experiences.
One mistake that senior citizens make is that they do not consider getting another job once they have retired. The sudden shift from having a full-time job to not having anything to do takes a drastic and sometimes extremely damaging toll. We may not realize it beforehand, but not having a workplace to go to can make us feel meaningless.
Not being able to earn money creates a sense of resignation. You won’t think of buying new clothes, traveling, or getting your favorite cake from the store. Having a steady flow of income even as a senior citizen can keep your self-esteem intact. You will continue to feel like a contributing member of society, which, for most people, is an essential aspect of feeling useful.
Try searching the internet, or recruit a younger friend to help you find jobs for senior citizens. You can work part-time, or several places on different days of the week to keep you busy. As you get older, you can try shifting your focus from working long hours to working only a few hours a day.
If there was ever a passion that you had to let go of, like art or writing, then you can start working on it again from the comfort of your home. The best part about taking up old, forgotten hobbies is that your mind stays active, and you feel grateful for this freedom that being a senior citizen has brought you. You appreciate that you are no longer working for anyone else — you get to plan your day on your own terms.
Work through your obstacles — don’t settle.
Senior citizens tend to wallow in self-pity because they slowly lose control over their own minds and bodies. When you feel like you are starting to lose your hold over your life, take steps to counteract that feeling.
If you cannot drive yourself around anymore, find alternate means of getting to one place or another. Don’t confine yourself to the walls of your home, because not only will that depress you; you’ll also feel resentful. Many senior citizen centers have buses that take you to different sites, so you might want to consider being a part of a trip. These are safer for elderly citizens because there is a supervisor to prevent any unforeseen circumstances.
If you have started to feel out of touch with your family because they have more to do in their lives than you — you can work through that as well. Harness the power of technology and video call your family and friends regularly. Being able to connect with the people you love is an essential factor in viewing your life positively. Most of the time, your family will appreciate having an extra hand to help around the house. You can babysit or walk the kids to the park every evening.
It is hard getting through the later years of your life. Many circumstances are not in our control, like deaths and chronic illnesses that we cannot change. It is natural in situations like these to feel like our lives are no longer meaningful. When the people or the activities that made our lives feel purposeful are gone, we go through immense emotional turmoil.
However, there is hardly anything we can do about the years we have already lived. The healthier option is to think about what we can now do with the time, resources, and wisdom that we are left with. Becoming depressed and anxious is almost always a part of aging, but with the proper love and support of our close friends and family, we can look forward to the years we have ahead of us.
Positive aging is all about reminding ourselves that what we are experiencing is part of the natural course of life. Not everyone makes it this far, but because we have, we must remember that there is a reason that we are still around. What is your reason? Please take a moment and think about it.
Giving yourself the compassion, love, and understanding we need to continue to thrive as senior citizens is essential. You will lose many people and go through phases to feel like you are just waiting for your days to pass. However, that is not what the purpose of these years of your life is. You are meant to enjoy these days and live your life to the fullest. You will be the only one who will be there for yourself when the days get rougher. If you cannot make your mental space a space where you feel nurtured and respected, you will start to resent the life you have.
Everyone’s experiences are valid and make you the person that you are. Be proud of the life that you have lived, and look forward to the years you have ahead of you. Even on the days you feel like you are declining, remember, you are still here, so cherish each moment and go out and make the most of every day.