Positive ageing – a new agenda for later life.
Positive ageing is for those who want to do ageing differently. The traditional approach tends to be passive, fatalistic and rather downbeat. The new positive approach is very different. It understands that the ‘mind’ can have a significant impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing and positive ageing therefore focuses on the emotional and psychological aspects of ageing.
Research has shown that negative beliefs, thoughts, ideas and attitudes about ageing can have a detrimental impact on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing as we age. This negativity about ageing is evident in the stereotypes about older people which are prevalent in society. These attitudes tend to become internalised as we age and can generate rather defeatist, de-motivating and self limiting ideas about ourselves and our journey through later life. This can undermine our health and wellbeing as we get older.
To counter this, a positive ageing approach proposes three principal strategies to prevent these negative outcomes. We are encouraged to:-
- develop a more balanced understanding of the reality of ageing which recognises the positive aspects of ageing as well as the more challenging ones
- apply techniques drawn from humanistic psychology to gain a degree of control over negative mental states
- consciously build our emotional wellbeing and inner resilience so that we are better able to negotiate the significant challenges in later life
Positive ageing is more than a philosophy – it is a practical way of improving the chances of having better life as we age. A positive ageing approach is underpinned by the following presuppositions:-
- It is not what happens to us in later life, but how we respond, which will determine our wellbeing as we age. External conditions and life events are obviously influential, but the choices we make on how to interpret and react to events in our lives is what makes the difference to our experience.
- It is important to develop and maintain a positive and optimistic mindset which rejects self-limiting beliefs based on what is considered ‘age appropriate’ or ‘normal’ for some of our age. Such age related limitations should be challenged.
- Age denial, the attempt to resist or cover up our ageing process, is a form of rejection of our future selves and needs to be challenged. We should be proud of whatever age we are and not succumb to age denial through anti-ageing potions or flattery about ‘not looking our age’. We are the age we are, and we look the age we look, at the age we are. #BeAgeProud
- Acceptance of getting older, including our mortality, is key to our wellbeing and happiness. Equanimity about this part of life’s journey is more beneficial than resistance and despair.