Who wants to get older, have gray hair (what hair we have, anyway), need to rely on glasses or visit a doctor every week?
No one really wants to experience the negatives that can happen as we age, but when your senior has a positive outlook about their aging status there can be benefits.
Most of us fear the potential lack of ability that could occur when we age. Is it inevitable?
It makes sense that if our senior loved ones are comfortable with their aging situation they will be happier, which is reflected in their health and well-being.
They may be maintaining their ability to age in place where they want to be – at home.
They may feel well and not as if they are constantly in a medical crisis. They may enjoy being active and spending time with family members. They may be proud of their ability to continue to participate in the activities they enjoy including church, hobbies, or volunteering. Perhaps they are working longer than they anticipated and feeling productive and needed.
Benefits of Happy Aging
There is a new study carried out at the University of Michigan that found the more comfortable older adults were with their aging or their attitude toward their own aging, the more likely they were to seek health screenings, which benefits their long-term health.
For many older adults, going to the doctor is not high on the list of things they love doing. They may fear that the symptoms they experience will have no treatment because they are “part of aging.” They may not want to be asked to make changes in their lifestyle. They have done something like smoking this long, so why should they stop now?
However, when a senior has the mindset that they are healthy and want to stay that way, they are more likely to participate in preventive care so that they might stay healthy.
This study found that there are three potential paths our senior loved ones can take physically as they age.
- Stay the same
- Decline functionally or mentally
- Improve in health as they age
How our seniors feel, their mindset, will influence which path they will follow according to these researchers.
Over 6,000 participants were studied, all over the age of 50 with an average age of 71. They were asked questions about how satisfied they were with their aging process. They were then scored on what screening health tests they received such as mammography, colonoscopy, cholesterol testing, prostate exams and pap smears.
Interestingly, researchers found that there was no change in the frequency of obtaining flu shots in those that expressed good aging versus those that were not aging as well.
The study suggested that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 data, less than 30% of adults aged 50-64 and less than 50% of adults over the age of 65 are up-to-date with core preventive services. Getting more frequent recommended preventive health screenings could impact successful aging and positive health outcomes for many seniors.
Improved functional health and being free from issues with immobility or disability can mean the difference, for many adults, between being able to live independently or needing the services of a senior living facility.
More Benefits of Being Happy
The University of Michigan also reports that happiness among older adults led to fewer doctor visits. They tracked over 6,300 older adults from 2006 through 2010, asking them if they felt that their life was close to ideal. They also then tracked how many visits to the doctor, emergency room or clinic they had during that time.
Adults who reported to be satisfied and happy with their life visited doctors about 4.6 times a year compared with 6.3 visits annually among those who had a low life satisfaction. This translates into an 11% decrease in doctor visits when life satisfaction was determined to be high.
Perhaps factors such as participating in physical activity, following prescribed medication or treatment regimens and having a healthy lifestyle were higher in those who felt more positive about their health. A positive outlook can sure go far in staying well especially as our senior loved ones age.
Helping Seniors Stay Positive
It seems like common sense that the brighter our mental viewpoint, the healthier the habits we will adopt and preserve. But how can we turn a frown upside down? Here are some ideas for you to help your senior (and yourself) be optimistic and happy.
- Smile! Sounds so easy, but if our seniors keep smiling others will take their lead. When those around our seniors as well as their environment maintains happiness, it can keep our seniors in a positive mental frame of mind.
- Stay physically active. Keeping our senior loved one’s body moving will help them focus their mind and stay sharp. A sharp mind can overcome daily stressors more easily. Taking a walk is a great mind clearer!
- Watch what you allow to enter your mind. If your senior is dwelling on bad news all the time, they can become defeated. Turn off the news once in a while, don’t let them plug into shocking headlines of doom and gloom all day long. Find ways to occupy their minds with happy thoughts.
- Keep uplifting people around your senior. Try to find people who will inspire good thoughts. If there are visitors who tend toward negativism, limit their interactions.
- Listen to your senior’s thoughts and feelings. Allow them time to vent, express their frustrations or their fears. They probably will feel better after they have gotten whatever is disturbing them off their chest and want no action from you other than allowing your ear to be bent.
- Sleep enough. Help your senior loved one find ways to get a good night’s sleep. You may have to help them alter their sleeping environment so that they can fall asleep and stay asleep. Maybe darker curtains, soothing sounds or a lavender pillow will help.
- Say thank you. Your senior may want to show their gratitude for all you and other people do to help them through their days. Help them express themselves.
- Banish the words ‘always’ and ‘never.’ When we use these words and think in this way, we are bound to be disappointed. Things don’t always happen the way we want. When things never happen the way we want the result is failure. Choosing more positive affirmations will help your senior keep a positive outlook.
- Embrace, rather than fight, change. It is inevitable that we will all experience change. It is how your senior copes with the many changes in his or her life that will help them cope. Facing change with strength can help them weather the storms ahead.
There are benefits to all of us in having a positive way of thinking and feeling about our life and our health, not just our seniors. We can be sure that when our senior loved ones stay on the sunny side of the street, they will definitely shine in health!