A New Vision For Our Senior Years

Nearly 35 million Americans are over 65-years-old, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and that is expected to double by 2030. By 2020, for the first time, there will be more people on the planet over the age of sixty-five than under the age of five. Even though our senior population is growing, geropsycholoigsts say stereotypes still exist. In fact, in a survey by Duke University’s Erdman Palmore, PhD, of 84 people ages 60 and older, nearly 80 percent of respondents reported experiencing ageism – such as other people assuming they had a memory or physical impairments due to their age; Many reported being ignored or not taken seriously because of their age.

Negative perceptions are not just hurtful, they may shorten the lives of older people. In a 2002 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Becca Levy, PhD and professor at Yale University, analyzed data collected from 660 people 50 years and older, she and her colleagues found those with positive self-perceptions and optimistic view of old age lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of aging.

Levy also found that older adults exposed to positive stereotypes have significantly better memory and balance, as opposed to those who held negative self-perceptions that contributed to memory issues and feelings of worthlessness.

In reality, the majority of seniors are self-sufficient, with more assets than most young people, have talents to offer society and the time to do it. Most older people don’t feel very different from their youthful selves and burn with an interior vitality. Even so, many seniors find themselves bored and without purpose after retirement.

Shaping thoughts and positive perceptions can have a significant impact on health and happiness. Learning to recognize one’s own passions can help seniors make the most of their golden years. It is important to appreciate ourselves, our talents and accomplishments, our passions and what we have to offer others. Skills such as goal setting, visualization, self-appreciation and mindfulness can lead to fulfilling choices on how to spend one’s time and make future plans. Learning to communicate assertively can help seniors deal with ageism. Cultivating our intuition, or inner knowing, can provide a trustworthy compass to guide one’s true path. These life building skills can be practiced by employing techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, journaling, and sharing with others. Selecting activities that include interaction, helping others, and exploring new interests can add happiness and a new dimension to life.

Dr. Christina Gilman offers personal growth tools, guidance and inspiration in private and group sessions. She is currently offering a Sage-ing While Age-ing Workshop for participants to build skills and set a new vision for their senior years. For more information, call 321-312-0421 or email DrChristinaGilman@gmail.com

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