While some view the ageing process through the lens of increasing physical and mental limitation, others celebrate the wisdom that comes with age.
So how do we adapt more positively to life’s challenges?
Australia’s oldest working artist, Guy Warren, has lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II and emerged untouched by two global health pandemics. Though there are parts of ageing that he doesn’t enjoy, he still lives independently, holds a driver’s licence and enjoys a full work schedule. The difference is his mindset.
‘There’s always something to do. There’s always something to look forward to. One shouldn’t look back too much, one should instead look forward,’ he says.
So why do some of us approach getting older with a sense of excitement and others a sense of fear?
The answer is resilience – or more specifically, the way we are able to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.
The Flinders Centre for Ageing Studies 2015 report, Ageing Well: Building Resilience in Individuals and Communities in which they found that having a higher sense of purpose in life and a more optimistic outlook buffered against the association between negative life events.
‘People with more flexible coping styles who are able to both persist with attainable goals and redefine or replace unattainable goals, had lower levels of psychological distress irrespective of the number of negative life events they reported.’
Fortunately, resilience can be learned.
A 2016 study published in Geriatric Nursing showed that there are several characteristics in three key categories shared by those aged 65 and over who were able to face challenges and come out the other side.
Mental characteristics: Adaptive coping styles, gratitude, happiness, mental health and optimism.
Social characteristics: Community involvement, contact with family and friends, a sense of purpose and positive relationships.
Physical characteristics: The ability to remain physically independent and mobile, enjoy good health and the belief that they were able to age successfully.
Tips for resilient ageing
• Maintain an optimistic attitude
• Maintain perspective; don’t let your thoughts run away with you
• Engage in new activities
• Cultivate new friendships or join a social group
• Accept that some things are out of your control
• Take action on the things you can impact
• Practice stress-management techniques
• Develop a spiritual practice such as prayer or meditation
• Practice self-care through proper nutrition, exercise and good sleep habits
• Volunteer your time to help others
• Ask for help when you need it
Source: The American Seniors Housing Association
Submitted by Susanne Jones, Just Better Care Brisbane North and CBD