The Positive Ageing Toolbox

The Positive Ageing Toolbox

Image by Kate Cox from Pixabay

"Aging is not 'lost youth' but a new stage
of opportunity and strength".

Betty Friedan - Author and Activist

I have just become a sexagenarian. The word sounds pretty cool, possibly exciting however what it really means is that more than two-thirds of my life is over, and I am in the final act. When I say it like that it sounds a bit depressing, however, thank goodness I wasn’t born in the 19th Century because I probably wouldn’t still be alive. I am not being a pessimist, I am being honest, human beings are living longer (World Health Organisation, n.d.) and my plans are to live for a lot longer yet.

Deciding that I couldn’t leave my longevity totally to chance, I began to explore what I needed in my toolbox to raise the odds.

Wellbeing

I always knew taking care of your health is important but what I didn’t know is that wellbeing played a huge role. Having a sense of purpose, feeling fulfilled, and experiencing pleasure and joy in your life is key to well-being and your physical and mental health, increasing the potential of living longer. (Steptoe et al., 2015).

Mindset

Optimism, a sense of humour, being open to change help with mindset. Having the right mindset plays a big part in positive ageing, as your attitudes influence your outcomes. (Age Concern New Zealand, n.d.)

Know Your Strengths

One way of changing these attitudes in ourselves is to recognise, focus on and engage your inner strengths. (Bar-Tur, 2021)

Compassion

Another helpful tool is compassion. Research shows that compassion is another key to healthy ageing, and people with higher self-compassion have better psychological health. (Brown, et al, 2019)

Image by NatureFriend from Pixabay

Now I have a few tools, I need to know how to use them, and I thought compassion would be a great place to start. Some people might say you are either born with compassion or not, however, Brown, et al identified that compassion can be learned.

So, if compassion for yourself or others hasn’t been a strong point how can you build your compassion muscle?

The activity below is from the VIA Institute on Character its a meditation, designed to increase your compassion and boost your positive emotions. (Via,n.d.)

  1. Take a seat in a quiet place, breathe a couple of slow and deep breaths.
  2. Then following the handout say these words and reflect on them 
  • May I be filled with loving-kindness.
  • May I be safe from inner and outer dangers.
  • May I be well in body and mind.
  • May I be at ease and happy.
  1. Finally say them again this time use the word you instead of I and reflect on the people you love.

Research has shown compassion and self-compassion improve your well-being and along with mindfulness can help you have a flourishing life. (McKay & Walker, 2021) Compassion contributes to your sense of meaning in life and is a valuable tool for the toolbox of positive ageing. (McKay & Walker, 2021)

If you want to dig deeper into the benefits of compassion Positive Psychology has an interesting article 20 Reasons Why Compassion Is So Important in Psychology. (Lonczak, 2019)

I am off to start using my tool of compassion, I am sure there are more tools I can add. Let me know if you have some tools in your positive ageing toolbox.

Sandie

References:

Age Concern New Zealand. (n.d.) Positive Ageing. https://www.ageconcern.org.nz/Public/Public/Info/LifeStyle/Positive_Ageing.aspx

Bar-Tur, L. (2021). Fostering Well-Being in the Elderly: Translating Theories on Positive Aging to Practical Approaches. Frontiers in Medicine, 8, 517226–517226. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2021.517226

Brown, L., Huffman, J. C., & Bryant, C. (2019). Self-compassionate Aging: A Systematic Review. The Gerontologist, 59(4), e311–e324. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gny108

Cox, K. (2016, June, 21) Carpenter’s toolbox, Tool chest, Tool kit image. [Stock Image]. pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/carpenters-toolbox-tool-chest-1466467/

Friedan, B. (1994).  How to live longer, better, wiser. Parade Magazine (pp. 4-6)

Lonczak, H (2019, June 7) 20 Reasons Why Compassion Is So Important in Psychology https://positivepsychology.com/why-is-compassion-important/

McKay, T., & Walker, B. R. (2021). Mindfulness, self-compassion and wellbeing. Personality and Individual Differences, 168, 110412–. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110412

Naturefriend. (2016, March, 23) Nature, Contemplation, Reflection image. [Stock Image]. pixabay. https://pixabay.com/photos/nature-contemplation-reflection-1271832/

PHILLIPS, W. J., & FERGUSON, S. J. (2013). Self-Compassion: A Resource for Positive Aging. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 68(4), 529–539. https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbs091

Positive Psychology. (n.d.) https://positivepsychology.com/

Steptoe, Deaton, A., & Stone, A. A. (2015). Subjective wellbeing, health, and ageing. The Lancet (British Edition), 385(9968), 640–648. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61489-0

VIA Institute of Character. (n.d.) Loving-Kindness Meditation. https://www.viacharacter.org/resources/activities/loving-kindness-meditation

World Health Organisation. (n.d.). Ageing. https://www.who.int/health-topics/ageing

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