By Betsy Zuber
Special to the Reporter
Do you believe that you have the power to change how you age? Many things contribute to our aging: genetics, lifestyle habits and perceptions. Since we cannot choose our parents, only a third of our aging process is out of our control, so that means two-thirds is in our control. This should be positive news. In fact, research is showing that no matter what your age, you can, with some lifestyle changes like exercise and diet, halt some chronic diseases.
Getting older does not always mean a descent into feebleness. You do have control over how you think and cope about your life. My clients teach me this.
My 95-year-old, wheelchair-bound, partially-blind client showed me this. Even though to look at him, one would think he should be depressed maybe even cranky about his lot in life. But he just continued to do what he could, wheeling around his apartment building visiting with other residents, listening to books on tape or TV, and lived his life. He would say getting old and frail is hard, but “What can I do? This is my life and I am going to live while I am alive.” His attitude and ability to cope endeared him to others. He had so many people wanting to visit with him that his caregiver had to set up a visiting schedule. Now he was no “Pollyanna.” He still had pain, needing daily treatment for his cellulites, but he had control over how he thought about it. How we think affects how we feel, and then translates to how we are perceived by others.
This takes conscious work and practice. My client could have just as easily become cantankerous about his situation in life. He spent most of his adult life practicing being positive even when life sent him challenges. He could still acknowledge how hard his daily routine was by being dependent on a caregiver, and that he would rather not need help. But he knew he needed help and was gracious when accepting it.
Flexible thinking about aging and acknowledging the struggle can help. With age comes experience some may call wisdom. That experience can translate into how to cope with whatever struggles come your way and is a learned skill. Pretty soon you have built resiliency and can draw from the many coping skills from past experiences. This can only happen through time, which adds hope to getting older.
So since we get to control how we think about our own aging process, what’ll it be?
Interesting Ted Talks: https://bit.ly/2D2ATYG and https://bit.ly/2to6HjF.
Betsy Zuber is the Geriatric Specialist for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services. She provides social services to anyone who lives on Mercer Island 60-plus and their families. You can reach her at 206-275-7752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.