Guest blog by Donna Fedus, Gerontologist & Founder, Borrow My Glasses
It’s a scene that is replayed across the country – the world really – countless times every day: A person is telling a story to a group of middle-aged or older friends.
After one too many asides, the storyteller loses the thread of the story, hesitates for a second and says, “I’m having a senior moment.” Everyone laughs to release the tension.
It’s accepted in our culture to blame memory lapses on aging, even among healthy middle-aged people. In fact, aging is typically recognized only when it is connected with a negative experience, loss, or moment of frailty. If you are healthy and fit, people say, “You don’t look your age!” If you are active and engaged, “You don’t act your age.”
It turns out that outdated and overly negative thinking about aging carries unexpected costs. Remember the saying, you are what you eat? Consider Buddha’s powerful corollary: “what you think, you become.”
Negative thinking about aging actually shortens your life, and limits your quality of life while you’re alive.
Multiple research studies over nearly 15 years by Becca Levy, Yale University School of Public Health, found that individuals with positive perceptions about aging live more than 7.5 times longer than individuals with negative perceptions about aging. Beyond longevity, Levy found that perceptions about aging also lead to measurable differences in quality of life. Subjects exposed to negative images of old age performed worse on hearing tests and showed heightened cardiovascular stress. Seniors exposed to words like “feeble” and “forgetful” responded worse on memory and balance tests, and actually walked away from the study site at a slower pace.
It’s time to reframe the image of senior moments to what they should – and can – be: My Dad had a beautiful senior moment teaching his grandson how to ski. To celebrate her 88th birthday, a colleague took the train from Connecticut to New York to spend the day at a museum with her 80-something year old friend. One of my favorite senior moments was watching my grandparents dance. My grandmother used to say you could tell how long a couple had been married by watching how closely their feet moved together while they danced.
My organization, Borrow My Glasses, made a pledge to change the way people think of senior moments at the recent Revolutionize Aging event we created with our partners AARP Connecticut and Quinnipiac University. Dr. Bill Thomas was the keynote speaker.
The event brought together students, professors, professionals, older adults and family caregivers to dialog and take a pledge to disrupt aging. The response was overwhelming. People are hungry for a more positive and realistic growth-oriented view of aging.
What are the beautiful senior moments in your life?
Take the pledge, contact Erica Michalowski at CTAARP@aarp.org!