How would the medical establishment and our political leaders respond if they found an unknown virus which prematurely killed people more than 7 years earlier than expected? Wouldn't there be a huge outcry to find a cure? Wouldn't we spend hundreds of millions of dollars to find a remedy?
For years now studies by American researchers have known that those individuals with a positive perception of aging live 7.5 years longer than those with less positive attitudes. These studies also determined that self-perceptions of aging had a greater impact on longevity than did age, gender, status in the community, loneliness and functional health.
Researchers considered that negative stereotypes of aging play a key role in fostering ideas about our own aging. And yet....and yet, such stereotypes are all around us. A one-size-fits-all belief that older people over 50 are rigid, forgetful, dependent, unattractive, boring, etc. And this belief is sanctioned by society.
The long term answer is to shift society's attitudes about aging. The good news is that the short term answer is simple and does not cost any money! It does require some individual vigilance, fortitude and resistance by each of us. Because if we resist absorbing negative images and messages about our own aging, we are likely to ultimately live longer, happier and with more fulfillment. This is the gift we can leave to those generations which follow.
And what a great legacy of aging intentionally that would be!