The Art of Aging Gracefully
Experts say the keys to successful aging include accepting changes and finding meaningful activities.
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
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
Accept the inevitable changes of aging, rather than seeing them as aberrant
During the course of his career, Illinois psychologist Mark Frazier, PsyD,
has worked with thousands of older people "ages 65 to 105," he says.
Again and again, he's seen an important key to psychological health:
accepting that your life won't stay the same. Aging changes everyone.
"If you live until you're 95 years old, you're probably not going to be
living alone in a beautiful apartment and driving your car to the grocery store
and picking up your dry cleaning and walking a mile to the park. But if you
know that ahead of time, it's much easier to manage it," he
"To age gracefully, one needs to anticipate the changes that are
inevitable," Frazier says. "People who think rigidly do not do that. As they
encounter the natural changes and health status that are part of aging, these
things are experienced as negative and adding a lot of stress and strain to
their life. Rigid thinkers tend to get overwhelmed. They can't manage it, and
they get depressed."
"Other people anticipate what's going to happen," he says. "It's more of a
'Yes, I knew this was coming and I know that I'll negotiate my way through
Get over your own stereotypes about growing older.
Sue Ellen Cooper, 62, understands Ephron's dirge about "compensatory
dressing" and obligatory hair dye. "It's not disgraceful to mourn the loss of
your beauty," Cooper says.
"But it's going. So you may as well do what you can and then forget it
because there's so much more to life than how you look and what other people
think of you."