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50+: Live Better, Longer

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The Art of Aging Gracefully

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

Accepting Changes continued...

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 says.

"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 it.'"

Avoiding Stereotypes

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."

Almost a decade ago, Cooper started the Red Hat Society to celebrate women 50 and over. Red Hat now boasts 40,000 chapters in the U.S. and abroad. Most members wear red hats and purple dresses to the group's social outings.

But Cooper admits that when she was younger, she harbored prejudice against older people. "When I would meet people, I'd think, "She probably wouldn't be a potential friend for me because she's 20 years older -- just these things where we make a split-second judgment on appearance."

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