"Over the hill," "out to pasture," "past the sell-by date"
these are all just a few of the colorful and misleading descriptions we've heard about aging through the decades. Our society didn't always have this negative view of aging and some cultures around the world still don't. For instance, in Japan older adults do not try to hide their age and they even have reserved "Silver Seats" on the Japanese National Railways, according to the Ithaca College Gerontology Institute. My personal favorite? It's proper etiquette to ask them their age and congratulate them on it.
Since 1963, the Japanese have celebrated "Respect for Elders Day" and now the rest of us can celebrate with International Day of Older Persons every October 1st. As the National Institute on Aging points out, the damaging myths we hold about aging have nothing to do with reality.
Keeping a youthful attitude and staying active doing something you love can help you embrace your age and get more out of life if you aren't already. One of the ways I like to do it is to spin my way across the dance floor in a mean salsa. But, everyone has different tastes. Here are just a few ways you can stay active and engaged in life as you get older.
One of my clients loves to volunteer with children. Volunteering allows you to help others in society, but it also has provides some powerful, personal rewards. You'll be able to expand your social network and other people who share your values. There's extensive research to show that keeping an active social calendar is essential to healthy aging.
Plus, volunteering is a great way to beat boredom and get your mind off your own problems. During volunteering you'll also learn new skills, for instance, some people who have never held a hammer and a nail get a life's worth of home-improvement experience when volunteering to build homes for Habitat for Humanity.
Take a Class
This is one of the most common ways to stay active and keep your mind young. You can choose from a wide range of classes such as website development, photography, law or financial planning. Or, you can finally learn that foreign language you always wanted to or take up salsa, waltzing or jazz dancing. The possibilities are endless. Many classes are available after working hours or on weekend, so there's no excuse.
Get Back in Touch With Nature
Most of us spend a significant amount of time cooped up in offices, our homes or stuck in traffic breathing in all the pollution and dodging road rage. But, no matter where you live, within a few minutes walk or drive, there's green space where you can relax and escape from your time-crunched life. For me, there's nothing like taking a bike ride up in the mountains to re-connect with my spirit! One study published in the journal "Environmental Science and Technology" revealed that spending just five minutes in nature can improve mood, self esteem and mental health. Not only will you reap immediate benefits from a nature excursion, the benefits have a long-lasting impact on your health and well-being.
Sometimes no matter what you do, you cannot improve your mood or outlook as you get older. You could be suffering from depression, which is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in older adults. Sometimes it's mistaken for Alzheimer's or a stroke. Once you're properly assessed, you can undergo counseling. It may include in-person psychotherapy or, if youre apprehensive or pressed for time, you can start off with telephone counseling sessions. Whatever route you choose, make sure youre comfortable with it.
Here's wishing you an active and fulfilling International Day of Older Persons!