Actively Aging

Actively Aging

Monday, August 29, 2016

Fact or Myth? Older People Are Miserable

Of course, no large group of people can accurately be reduced to a stereotype. Any time you are talking about such a group and you use words like all or none chances are extremely high that you will be wrong.

This holds especially true when you are talking about older people. Over the centuries, an idea has sprung up that people who reach a great number of years on the planet get crotchety, unhappy, sad, and lonely.

The misery myth is a firmly held belief by many. Part of that idea might have arisen because prior to the middle of the 20th Century life was much harder, and those few that survived into their later years were worn down by the daily struggles for existence.

Today, however, study after study is showing that the truth is actually the opposite of the myth - in terms of emotions, older people are actually experiencing their best days in later life.

Here are some important findings in what is being termed the Paradox of Aging:
  • mental health generally improves with age. Older people as a group suffer less from anxiety and depression than their younger counterparts.
  • older people experience fewer negative emotions than people in their 20s and 30s.
  • when negative feelings do arise, older people don't linger on them the way most younger people do. 
  • as we get into our senior years, our perspective changes and we begin to alter our evaluation what is worth our time, attention, worry, and wrath and simple pleasures expand in importance
  • while older people do narrow their social circle to just their most valued friends and family, this reduction makes them say they are more satisfied with their relationships.
  • older couples report they argue less, either because they have resolved their most troubling differences or learned to work around them.
  • grandparenting, which combines many of the joys of being around children you love without the responsibility for their constan care, is another source of satisfaction often cited.
  • older people worry less about what others think about them and instead are more selective about whose opinions really matter to them.
In her 30 years of studying aging, psychologist Laura Carstenstein, director of the Stanford Center on Longevitiy, says these positives mirror her findings.

"That is not to say that old age is an epoch of unrelenting warmth and good cheer. it has its share of hardships and disappointments," Carstestein says in her book A Long Bright Future. "It's just by the time people get to their later years, they're more attuned to the sweetness of life than to its bitterness."

Friday, August 26, 2016

Could Reading Be the Secret To a Longer Life?


This article 1st appeared in Sixty and Me.

Remember when teachers told you reading was good for you? They were right. And now reading is even associated with living longer. Researchers at the Yale University School of Public Health have discovered that book readers have a “significant survival advantage” over those who don’t read books.
The findings of the Yale study are now appearing in Social Science and Medicine. They how that people over 50 who read up to three-and-a-half hours a week were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12 years of follow-up. Those who read more than that were 23 percent less likely to die than non-readers.
Of course, even the most avid readers are sometimes at a loss to know what to read next. And readers who are just getting started with intensive reading need to know where to begin.
So with those issues in mind, here is a list of 12 ways to select books or of varying what you are reading.

Pick a different theme for each month and then read books based on that theme

Your theme could be as serious as a literary look at the nature of good and evil or as frivolous as books with brown, orange, and yellow covers (for the Fall season).

Pick a new genre that you’ve never read

I was never a reader of mystery books until the 90s when I saw a list of mystery books that then-President Bill Clinton was reading. Today some of those authors like George Pelecanos, Michael Connelly and James Lee Burke are among my favorite writers.

Pick an author and then read his or her entire catalog

My friend Eddie Supernavage has been doing that for years and has completed all the works of authors as diverse as Soren Kierkegaard and John Gardner.

Pick up books on a topic you’ve always wanted to learn about

Select books on a problem you are interested in and become an autodidact. I’m doing that right now with my research on aging and the Baby Boom generation. My wife is specializing in memoirs of women in Muslim, Asian, or African cultures.

Try A to Z reading

Pick a category of books, such as biography. Head to your local library. Start going down the rows, selecting the first couple of books that appeal to you about people whose names begin with A.

Check out book review sites

Reading websites such as Amazon or Goodreads offer you suggestions for new books to read.

Try a Smorgasbord Book Night

Have a group of friends over for tea (or something stronger) and a bit of tasty talk about reading. Have each friend bring a book that they have covered to disguise its title. Put all the books in a basket. Each person then takes a book home, reads it, and tells about it at your next session.

Take a look at book lists

Check out Nobel Prize Winners or The 100 Best Books Ever. Select titles from the list you’ve never read.

Talk to book experts

Head to your local library or your local bookstore. Staff there will be glad to work with you to come up with interesting recommendations.

Choose a good book that will lead you to another

Purchase a book that will show you how one good book can lead to another. I have used bothThe Prentice Hall Good Reading Guide and The Lifetime Reading Plan for years.

Find a book fair in your area, look at the titles there

Of course, you can buy the books, but if you want a cheaper option either jot down titles that intrigue you or take a picture of the cover with your smart phone and then borrow the books from the library.

Use current events to widen your reading

Right now, the most intriguing election in my lifetime is underway in America. That event suggests many reading choices. For example, you could read about politics, or presidents, or past elections, or ceiling-shattering women or business tycoons.
Of course, no reading list is ever exhaustive. Do you have any other good ways to help readers choose books? Have you used any of the ways on this list? What books are you reading at the moment?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

You're Not Over the Hill Until You Start Believing You're Over the Hill

This article 1st appeared in Sixty and Me

How old is really old?
Apparently, the answer depends on the age of the person responding to the question.
Intuitively, this makes sense. Take a moment and think back to when you were 15. How did you view a person who was 20? Now return to your current mindset. How do you view a person who is 5 years older than you today?

What About Age Stereotypes?

Approximately 30 percent of those surveyed admitted to having made assumptions about people based solely on their age.
When it came to describing aging stereotypes, the most common generalizations focused on an older person’s poor driving ability, physical slowness, and stubborn view on things.
Younger people were most often accused of being too dependent on modern technology, appearing self-centered, and wanting everything immediately without earning it.
Despite beliefs to the contrary, for the most part, all age groups didn’t see themselves treated inappropriately or disrespectfully based on their age.
Interestingly the youngest respondents felt most victimized by age discrimination. The breakdown for experiencing perceived inappropriate treatment were Millennials, 17%; GenXers, 7%; and Baby Boomers, 13%.

How Are We All the Same Regardless of Age?

In the research, there were several beliefs and priorities that all the generational respondents agreed on. This included continuing to learn new skills regularly and feeling that aging is about living, not dying. All ages agreed that both experience and wisdom come with age.
They all claimed that the biggest limitations due to aging centered around physical abilities, fashion choices, and the ability to find a job. Thinking people are more likely to lie about their weight or their income than age.

Finally, There is That Great Equalizer

Not surprisingly, that would be sex.
While respondents in all age groups claimed they were engaging in sex several times a month, the vast majority would prefer to have it more often than they were.
Guess it all just goes to show that there is equality when it comes to what happens behind closed doors and drawn curtains. No matter what age we are, we’re more alike than we are different. Or at least that’s what we want people to think.
What age do you consider “old?” Do you agree that being considered “over the hill” is really a mindset that changes with age? Did you find it interesting that Boomers felt less inappropriate treatment based on age than Millennials?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Welcome to the New Old Age


If you look around you can see it. There are a lot more older people than there used to be.

Demographics support that view. Longevity is indeed increasing.

For most all of human history, life expectancy was about 20. But with slow advances, by the beginning of the 20th Century, it had doubled to 40. Now, just 116 years later - actually a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms - it is approaching 80.

Today, there are more than 50,000 centenarians in the United States. That's approximately 3 times as many as there were in 1999.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of women and men over 100 years of age will likely exceed 1 million by 2050. A few experts are convinced that one-half of the baby girls born in 2015 will live for at least a century.

While at 64, I still have 3+ decades to hit 100, I have witnessed that longevity in my own times. When I retired from teaching in 2011, the state of New Jersey was paying pensions to 9 former teachers over the age of 100.

So what does this mean?

Well, first it is obvious we will have to get rid of a lot of our former ideas and preconceptions of what it means to be old. Many of the institutions we operated in the 20th Century - family, education, work, financial markets, housing - will all need to be drastically altered.

There is no guidebook for this. It is an unprecedented first.

But barring unforeseen cataclysmic events, longer lives looks to become the norm, not the outlier.

One of the main reasons for this blog is to explore how to best take advantage of what Ph. D psychologist and founder of the Stanford Center on Longevity Laura Carstensen calls "the fabulous gift of our super-sized lives."

Following the innovative, groundbreaking work of Dr. Carstensen and a host of other experts in the aging fields, I'm sure we will discover much as we explore this Brave New World of Aging.

I hope you'll hang around for the whole journey and encourage others to join us.