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50+: Live Better, Longer

The Art of Aging Gracefully

Experts say the keys to successful aging include accepting changes and finding meaningful activities.
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Happy Camper continued...

The former electrical engineer took up a new hobby after retirement: mountain climbing. He has climbed Mount Whitney and Kilimanjaro and trekked to Mount Everest's base camp. Just last year, he and wife Donna went on a weeklong backpacking trip -- just the two of them alone in the wilderness. Donna is 80.

"People think we're nuts," he says. But for him, aging with a bad attitude is simply out of the question.

The Spradlins have grown old with astonishing grace and acceptance. But depression is a real threat among the old; some drift into isolation, bitterness, and a sense of meaninglessness. Still others put up their dukes, determined to go down swinging. Face-lifts and tummy tucks? Bring it on.   

Experts who have worked with thousands of seniors share their insights into how you can navigate emotional challenges in order to age gracefully. 

The Old Are Survivors

It's true that aging brings hardships, but remember that the old are survivors -- a select group.

Wisdom, resilience and a mature perspective are often cited as the hard-won prizes of aging. But growing old itself is an accomplishment.

"But if you get to be older, you have survived a lot of the threats to your physical and psychological integrity that have affected other people who are no longer around," psychologist Whitbourne says.

Through good luck or good genes or both, the old have dodged fatal accidents, premature disease, and other things that kill the young. "You are stronger, and you get to live longer," she says. "Most people think that's a benefit."

A dose of healthy denial can improve outlook in one's later years, she adds. "The people who do the best with aging aren't thinking that much about getting older. They're not really focusing on what's not working anymore. If you sit around mulling over the meaning of existence and how time is running out, you're building in a scenario where you're not going to age as successfully."

Accepting Changes

Accept the inevitable changes of aging, rather than seeing them as aberrant crises. 

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