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How attitude affects aging

Reframing your outlook can lead to better health.

Article Author: Juice Staff

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They say age is just a number, but anyone who’s elderly knows growing older brings limitations sooner or later. And while happy thoughts can’t turn back the clock, a mounting body of evidence shows reframing your outlook to be more positive can actually help your physical health.

A recent study published in JAMA Network Open found people who felt satisfied with aging had a 43% lower risk of dying within four years than those who did not. The study measured aging satisfaction by asking people how they believed getting older affected quality of life, energy, happiness and feelings of usefulness.

Forever young

People who are satisfied with aging see themselves as still being young on the inside, said Raphael Balbino, MD, a geriatrician with Baptist AgeWell Center for Health. They don’t think of getting older as an enormous burden.

“I’ve had patients who had horrible physical problems, but they were jovial and wanted to remain as connected to others as they were before,” he said. “They took better care of themselves because they prized what they did have, instead of just looking at what they didn’t.”

Having a positive outlook is a well-known factor behind better medical outcomes, Dr. Balbino said.

On the other hand, some people believe life simply gets worse with age, and it can be hard to shake them of that belief. People have a tendency to think their own suffering is the worst because it’s all they know.

“I sometimes tell my patients, ‘Hey there’s someone who’s considerably younger than you who is going through much worse,’” Dr. Balbino said. “Sometimes we forget to be grateful, and we just need to be reminded.”

A new season

Getting older often brings unwanted changes, such as a calendar filled with doctors’ appointments. When people get discouraged, Dr. Balbino reminds them aging has its benefits, too. You likely no longer have a job or the demands on your schedule that came with it, he said. You get to be with your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, or you may get to travel.

“This is just a different season of life,” Dr. Balbino said. “So, remember the beauty that comes with aging, and be sure to enjoy it.”

People often form beliefs about age early in life, so it can be a conscious, day-at-a-time effort to think differently. On the other hand, when older people do think about aging more positively, the younger generation can benefit.

“It's a blessing for grandchildren because it can totally shape their outlook on what it is to age gracefully,” Dr. Balbino said.

Baptist AgeWell Center for Health helps seniors 65+ stay active for themselves, family and friends. For more information or to make an appointment, click here or call 904.202.4243.

Sources: JAMA Network Open

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