As attitude is clearly at the centre of my blog, it is only fitting to begin with an introduction to the relevance of attitude as we get older. We can approach attitude in either a positive or negative way; the choice is ours.
An example of a negative attitude to ageing is the way in which society tends to perceive older women and the expectations of who and what they should be and look like. The media has a lot to answer for where this is concerned and continues to exercise a powerful influence on the attitude of society towards ageing. I will explore this in greater detail in future posts and in particular how these attitudes exert an invisible pressure on women and their self-image.
On the other hand, an example of a positive attitude is what I as an older woman choose to have about life and how I live it whatever my age. I remember my mother saying that when she turned 40 she rebelled against conformity and keeping her views to herself. For her, forty came with the courage and attitude to express her opinions and concerns and even to say ‘no’ to requests and demands made by others. After a lifetime of navigating the expectations of her husband, children, parents, friends and society she had found her voice and the courage to express it. In a conservative, male dominated culture this was quite courageous.
Furthermore, there is a significant body of research that has proved beyond doubt that a positive attitude about ageing not only prevents future ill health, but that it also helps to keep the mind sharp and active. Research equally proves that a negative attitude is likely to significantly contribute to both physical and cognitive frailty. Ageing with a positive attitude is therefore a recipe for better physical and mental health. It is also a proven fact that frailty contributes to a downward spiral associated with dementia.
It is also worth pausing for a moment and recognise that any negative attitudes we may harbour in relation to ageing will collude with erecting barriers that will prevent us from living life to the full. So, whether we choose a positive or a negative attitude towards ageing it will generate self-fulfilling prophecies and a reality that will reflect our beliefs. I am not referring to a Pollyanna approach that says life is a bed of roses, but a scientifically proven fact that a positive attitude makes a significant impact on how well we will age physically and mentally.
Monotony is a killer of optimism and as we get older there is a danger of doing things the way we’ve always done them, mainly because it makes life easy and it is one less thing to think about. As I pointed out, research suggests that a negative attitude has many detrimental consequences. Therefore, there is a benefit in challenging ourselves to do what we’ve always done differently and to regularly engage in doing different things.
The grumpy old woman or man is not only unpleasant to be with, but they are also storing up health problems for the future. A positive attitude on the other hand both lengthens our life span as well as improves the quality of the years we have left. In cultures such as China where older people are more revered than in the West, their ageing population suffers less from the negative health consequences associated with those in cultures with a less tolerant attitude to the elderly.
In addition, science has proved that an attitude of gratitude also contributes to greater health and longevity. Gratitude reduces stress and is a causative factor in helping us to overcome various forms of trauma. Furthermore, it increases and helps us to develop resilience to cope with the challenges we are likely to encounter at some stage in our lives. As with any muscle, we have to put in the effort and regularly exercise it before we can experience the benefits. It is also worth reminding ourselves that gratitude will no doubt lead to more fulfilling relationships, whether in our personal or business lives.
Attitude is a choice and only we can decide whether it will be positive or negative. So, long live ageing with attitude!