“Age is just a number. It is totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.”
Our positive attitude can add years to our longevity. Studies have shown that a positive view of health and aging can add as much as seven and a half years to ones lifespan. And another study shows the relationship between mortality and factors as social ability and personality.
Ellen Langer, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Harvard University has studied the illusion of control, decision-making, stress, aging and mindfulness and health. She has a great example: If we spill a drop of red sauce on a white shirt we can easily notice it. If the shirt were a plaid, we might not. Most of us are so disengaged from ourselves—stressed, depressed, overworked—that we look at our selves and see plaid shirts. But that can change if we take note of what’s new and different about the world and ourselves. When we notice new things, we become mindful, and mindfulness begets more mindfulness. The more mindful we become, the more we see ourselves as white shirts and the easier it is to find the red spot and remove it.
Many of our nagging complaints—hearing, vision, taste, memory, posture, gait, can be traced to age. Studies have been done showing that they can be improved once we remove the blinders we wear and become more in tune with what’s going on around us becoming more mindful of our presence, becoming more involved with our life and the fact that we have other choices and can choose them. Even at seventy, we are not stuck. We may feel limited by expectations, but we must not stop looking for the unexpected.
I was 55 when my daughter became pregnant, panicking that the stereotyping would add years to me, I made it very clear to my daughter that I would pick the name I wanted my granddaughter to call me. It wasn’t that I wasn’t proud. I just did not want to be called “Grandma” or “Granny” or “Nona” or any foreign cute name that had anything to do with labeling me a grandmother. After being called, “Here she is!” for eighteen months after her birth, I settled on Granola (gran-Nola). I couldn’t believe it took me so long to figure that one out. I’m sure it had to do with repressing the thought that society would see me differently. And now both friends and family call me Granola, not just my granddaughter.
Words like: decline, forgets, misplaced, need to be removed from your vocabulary. Retired, senior and even grandmother is a label that has a negative aspect of aging. The more we see ourselves taking on a more active role in our physical and social life, refusing to fall into the negative stereotype of being an old person, we will become more youthful. It will happen.
Just something as simple as changing the color of your hair can have an enormous effect of people’s perception of you. We have been culturally taught from an early age that a person with gray hair is old. When we see a young person with gray hair we assume that they are older than they really are and older people with tinted hair are assumed to be younger. We know this. But, did you realize that when you are perceived younger, you behave younger? Take shoes: a teenager wearing the clunky heeled shoes and long skirt looks, hip; a sixty-year-old wearing the same shoes and skirt can look older than she is. And we would, in most cases, not ever accept a woman in her sixties in a mini skirt. But if she combines the clunky shoes with skinny jeans or a mini skirt and doesn’t over do her makeup and walks with spunk, chances are she will be perceived younger than her chronological age. You may not even realize it, but subconsciously you take on a new behavior, a more youthful “attitude”.
In fact, we are not to act our age at any age.