What do you love most about getting older? When was the last time you thought about this? We
recently posed this question at our ADRC booth at a weekend community event. By the end of the weekend there were a number of responses—all of which made growing older look pretty darn good! But we don’t usually view growing older as a positive thing. Why and how does this affect us? Let me tell you about 7.5.

The Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging (WIHA) is leading the charge in Wisconsin encouraging more people to view growing older in a different light starting with the number 7.5. What’s the big deal? According to research completed by Becca Levy at the Yale School of Public Health, people with POSITIVE perceptions of aging live 7.5 years longer than those who have negative perceptions.

People who look at growing older in a positive light are more likely to recover from a severe disability, have significantly better memory and cognitive function, and have a lower risk of cardiovascular events. In fact, perceptions of aging affect longevity more than blood pressure and cholesterol, lower body mass index, history of smoking, and tendency to exercise. Why is this? Levy’s research shows that people who think health problems are a normal part of aging:

  • Engage in fewer preventive behaviors—i.e. wearing a seat belt, exercising, getting the flu shot
  • Feel less in control of their life and have a lower will to live
  • Are less likely to see a physician regularly
  • Are less likely to seek preventive care
  • Suffer higher rates and severity of arthritis, hearing loss and heart disease

Why do we see aging as a bad thing? Ageism and negative stereotypes of aging are everywhere! How often do you see ads on the TV for a new anti-aging cream? Did you buy the “funny” birthday card kidding about the pearls of old age? Have you ever said, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and you weren’t referring to your family pet? These are just a few very common examples of ageism.

So what can we do? WIHA suggests:

  1. Talking about the number 7.5 with your friends and family.
  2. Paying more attention to the things you say and how you talk about older persons. Catch yourself when you say, “He’s 80 but he is still sharp/driving.” This language insinuates that he is the exception and the average 80 year old isn’t sharp and we know that is not true!
  3. Stop hiding or fibbing about your age. Be proud of your age and all the positive things that come with growing older!
  4. Having friends in all generations. Much like having friends from different cultures, it gives you a richer perspective.
  5. Calling out ageism when you see or hear it. Positive views on aging=7.5 years longer life!

Source: Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging, Ageism is Everywhere: And It’s Bad for Everyone’s Health

Submitted by: Carrie Myers, Resource Specialist, ADRC of Northwest Wisconsin

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