In our youth-orientated culture, negative attitudes towards ageing are common. Getting older is associated with slowing down and with losing our enjoyment of life. Such stereotypes of ageing are inaccurate and do not reflect the reality of life for the vast majority of older people. Many positive aspects of ageing get lost in the barrage of negativity.
Well-being in older age.
Far from being depressed, the over-55’s report the highest level of life satisfaction of all age groups. A number of factors contribute to this enhanced level of well-being. Relieved of the responsibilities of childrearing, older people often enjoy better relationships with their adult children. They can gain great satisfaction from their relationships with their grandchildren. They are less constricted by the roles that they had to fulfill in their earlier years, whether at home, socially or in the workplace. They have time to become more “their own person”.
Ageing brings a depth of wisdom, insight and understanding that can only come through life experience. People tend to become more compassionate and less judgemental of both themselves and others as they age/ They realise that making mistakes is an inevitable, and indeed essential, part of life. Getting older can bring greater confidence and release people from concerns about what other people think, allowing them more personal freedom. They stress less about small things, and are able to see a bigger picture.
The vast majority of seniors are healthy, active and productive members of society. Far from being receivers of social care, they are net providers, through the help they give to their families, their local communities and through volunteering and other civic activities. They offer a growing market for providers of adult education, sporting and cultural activities. They are free to contribute their time and experience to political, spiritual and charitable causes. An older population will engage in less crime and create greater social capital, i.e. more interconnectness through informal networks which provide the “social glue” that keeps communities together.
Staying healthy as we age
The “baby boomer” generation will be the healthiest, wealthiest and most active group to ever enter the “third age”, as life post-retirement is now called. Advances in medical science, as well as increased awareness about the importance of diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors, means that physical health and ability does not have to decline significantly as we age. Keeping mentally and physically active, not smoking, drinking in moderation, exercising regularly and eating fresh, unprocessed food have all been shown to have measurable effects in maintaining cognitive abilities and physical health.
Access to information and communication through the internet and mobile phones breaks down isolation and empowers older people to develop new skills and interests. By keeping a positive attitude and seeing ageing as an opportunity to exercise a new-found freedom, we can ensure that our options and possibilities expand rather than shrink as we age.
Ms. Maeve Halpin,
Registered Counselling Psychologist,
Appletree Health and Wellness,
No. 126, Ranelagh,