The increasing number of older adults will be staggering over the next two decades. In order to have positive well-being, it is paramount that “baby-boomers,” as well as future generations, consider the consequences of their lifestyle on mental and physical health.
This means having a healthy dose of positive emotions, the absence of physical disability, and general life-satisfaction as the people reach the second half of their life.
What can people do then to support their positive aging?
There are large individual differences in physical and cognitive functioning of older adults. Negative stereotypes about aging may lead older adults to negatively interpret the natural changes that accompany aging and develop limiting expectations.
Though, older adults who engage in regular physical and mental activity, as well as having a positive attitude, improve the odds of successful aging. They tend to be healthier and live longer than adults who are sedentary and don’t stimulate themselves intellectually.
Research has also revealed seven factors that predict positive aging.
Not being a smoker or stopping smoking young
If research and conventional knowledge has revealed anything, it’s that smoking ultimately has negative long term consequences. In a research review by George E. Valliant, the single most predictive factor for healthy physical aging is heavy smoking before age 50. By stopping smoking by age 45 there is no significantly apparent effects seen by age 70 or 80.
Adaptive coping style
The ability to deal with challenges when they arise and find value in the hardships of life is a major factor in healthy aging. To have positive mental health it is essential to respond to stress in a proactive and nourishing manner, as opposed to a damaging and toxic manner, such as addictive behaviors.
Absence of alcohol abuse
When it comes to physical and mental illness there is a strong relationships with alcohol abuse. Alcohol abuse is a major cause of relationship, work, and general health problems. By removing alcohol and other substance abuse healthy aging is much more likely.
Having a normal body mass index (BMI), which is the approximation of normal body fat based on someone’s height and weight, is another factor in healthy aging. Not being significantly overweight provides the means to have greater independence and mobility in aging, as well as preventing the major health issues that come with obesity, such as stroke, coronary artery disease, and type 2 diabetes.
Relationships are a vital part of emotional health. Relationships offer us support, joy, and recreation. When people have stable relationships without divorce, separation, and serious conflict it offers a greater chance of enduring happiness and satisfaction.
With all the other notions previously discussed about physical and mental health, incorporating physical exercise is an important factor to bring everything together. Having at least 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 days a week can really improve mental and physical health.
Years of education
Overall years of education have been shown to relate to knowledge of self-care, perseverance, and future orientation. Having a focus on future health and well-being is important in taking a proactive approach to positive aging. More education relates to healthy habits and behavior that improve physical health, and a general knowledge that can translate into increased awareness of how we relate to others.
There are many other factors involved with positive aging, though working to keep an active and engaging lifestyle is the major routine to continue or reach. The assumption that getting older is dismal and humdrum doesn’t apply as long as we take our lives into our own hands and take effort to better ourselves and make personal growth a life-long mission.
Linley, P. A., & Joseph, S. (2004). Positive Psychology in Practice. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Photo credit: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget