The Good News About Aging

Successful aging is not an oxymoron after all! Recent research shows that many of the long-held stereotypes about doddering, crotchety old folks don't have to hold true for people at mid-life and beyond. Read on for a dose of encouragement about the way we age now.

We Don't Think Negative Stereotypes About Aging Apply to Us A report published in "Experimental Aging Research" found that most older adults don't "integrate negative age stereotypes into their self-perceptions." For the study, 60 adults ranging in age from 60 to 94 were given pessimistic information about competence in old age. The vast majority of the participants steadfastly held that the downbeat descriptions applied to other people but not to themselves.

We Can Maintain Control Over Our Well-Being George E. Vaillant, M.D., and Kenneth Mukamal, M.D. writing in "The American Journal of Psychiatry," concluded that "one may have greater personal control over one's biopsychosocial health after retirement than previously recognized." They conducted a longitudinal study that followed 569 college-age young people for 60 years or until death. The researchers measured variables for successful aging at age 70 to 80 including physical and mental health, social supports, and life enjoyment. Factors that people had under control before the age of 50 tended to remain that way for life.

See Also: The Secret to Healthy Aging

We're Smarter Than We Used To Be Neurologists and psychologists now hold that the brain from midlife on has an astonishing amount of "neuroplasticity." Senior moments and menopause fog notwithstanding, Boomers are better than their younger counterparts at managing information and discerning meanings. That's because our brains have developed new cross-indexing skills. UCLA neurologist George Bartzokis used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of 300 healthy subjects from 18 to 75 years old. He found that the older adults had the greatest amount of a substance that keeps nerve signals firing accurately.

Active Retirement Can Be A Boon The SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set report based on a survey of 1,001 Americans 55 and older found that those who haven't retired yet have typically pushed back their retirement age to 69. Many have done so because they still have financial obligations to adult children and elderly parents, but it turns out that staying on the job or embarking on an "encore career" is good for more than your wallet. A study published in the "Journal of Occupational Health Psychology," showed that people of retirement age who continue to work at least part-time have fewer serious diseases and better mental health.

Muscle Loss Can Be Reversed At Any Age A now-classic study of the effect of strength-training on subjects between the ages of 61 and 78 showed that after a mere eight weeks, both men and women had a significant increase in muscle mass and strength. Even more heartening, another study reported that participants aged 72 to 98 had an increase in muscle strength of a whopping 113% after ten weeks of resistance training. They were also walking at a fairly brisk clip and climbing stairs with relative ease. Yet at the beginning of the trial, they had been classified as "frail elderly."

See Also: 10 Must-Know Facts About Your Aging Brain

Sex Can Still Be Good Americans in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s continue to make love on a regular basis according to a study by The University of Chicago. The results fly in the face of images of asexual older people or "dirty old men." Data was collected from 3,005 adults ages 57 to 85 during two-hour face-to-face interviews.

Older Americans Are Happiest Of All A study done by University of Chicago sociologist Yang Yang showed that contrary to the notion that people feel "over the hill" after a certain age, we in fact gradually begin to have a rosier view of our lives. In spite of some inevitable aches and pains plus the loss of loved ones along the way, older people generally are more content than younger adults. It looks as though poet Robert Browning was right after all when he penned the famous lines "Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be."

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