Why do some people age ‘successfully’ while others go into their later years kicking and screaming? Does it matter if their health issues are physical or cognitive? Is it ‘better’ to have one’s body give out and have one’s mind remain intact, or is the other way around preferable?
Is it easier to age when you have faith or a religious foundation, or does it even matter? Is successful aging a matter of economics, where those most affluent age most successfully? Are close personal relationships the key to aging successfully?
I wish I knew the answers. In my many years of working with older adults and their families, there is no single formula for ‘successful’ aging. Rather, there seems to be an accumulation – or a lifetime, if you will – of choices that determine how well one will age.
There is a saying in gerontology that as you age, you become more like yourself. Simply put, people don’t get cranky because they get older. They have always been cranky, but perhaps chose to hide it.
Perhaps people say or do things as they get older that they may have always wanted to say or do, but societal pressures dictated that they behave or speak in a certain way. The same can be said about other behaviors or attitudes; therefore, old age can be freeing of societal constraints and controls.
Certainly genetics play a huge role in aging as it does in all things. When asked, “What is the number one predictor of a long life?” the answer is always, “Pick parents who live a long time.”
Living long and living well are not the same. Making each day matter is how a life well lived is achieved.
For me, successful aging is about embracing where you are, playing the hand you are dealt with as much grace as possible, and making the most of each day. Surround yourself with those you love and those who love you.
If people strive to leave a legacy of beauty, honesty and hard work, then they will undoubtedly age ‘successfully.’
–Candy Blau, MA