There is a small but solid body of research to suggest that a person’s psychological perception of his/her age can have a significant effect on his/her physical state as well. In effect, you are as old as you feel
Ageing is as much a psychological process as it is biological. How old or young a person feels has a big influence on both their health and how other people view them. There is a small but solid body of research to suggest that a person’s psychological perception of age can have a significant effect on his/her physical state as well.
Ellen Langer, a psychological scientist from Harvard, conducted an experiment where she had men over the age of 60 live in a retreat where the interiors were done up with a retro theme. They were asked to pretend that they were living in that year. It reconditioned their minds to think that they were living in the past, as a result of which their vision and strength improved.
In another interesting study by Langer, women were asked to cut and dye their hair at a salon and volunteers were asked to look at the before and after photographs. Participants who believed that dying their hair made them look younger were perceived as younger than their actual age by the volunteers. Those who did not believe so were not seen as younger by the volunteers.
Addressing ageism at home and the workplace: The cultural perception around ageing is something that needs to be addressed if we are to move forward as a society. While there are cultures across the world where the wisdom of elders is celebrated and they are a vital part of the society and home, it is common to relegate them to hospitals and nursing homes as they grow old.
For instance, while in India and other Asian countries, elders are traditionally respected and cherished as parents and grandparents, in the West, they are relegated to the background. More often than not, ageing is treated with distaste and senior citizens are treated as a burden more than a gift, despite the years of experience they bring with them.
Not surprisingly, ageism is very much a part of the work culture, even in a country like India, which respects senior citizens at home but not so much in the office. Hence, we need to educate people in order to dispel the archaic and unfounded stereotypes about older workers, particularly as a number of seniors continue to work post retirement mostly due to economic constraints and some because they just want to keep themselves active and busy.
The fact that advancements in medical care have ensured that senior citizens are much healthier and fitter than ever before has got a lot to do with this trend.
According to a study by a job search website, people over the age of 60 have started to slowly grab a bigger piece of the employment cake. From engineering projects and manufacturing, to consulting services and the power industry, a number of retirees continue to contribute to society.
Thankfully, Governments across the world have also started to recognise this in-depth knowledge and have started to relax the retirement age cap, with some of them going as far as to pass laws to outlaw age-based discrimination.
As a society, we should do everything we can to encourage and educate senior citizens to stay healthy. With just a little bit of practice, they can stay just as mentally and physically sharp and supple as ever.
Keep the mind active: The idea that seniors cannot learn new skills has no basis in reality. People over the age of 60 are among the fastest-growing group of internet users. Their readiness to learn new skills is a key factor to keeping the mind young. Doing this is easier today than it has ever been for older generations because of the ubiquity of technology. All of us rely on computers, smartphones, video chats, Global Positioning Systems and other new-age technology. It takes just a few minutes to receive emergency care, download e-books, book tickets for traveling and video chat with grandchildren who stay continents away.
This willingness to spend time and effort to learn new things is what differentiates those who will remain mentally younger for a longer time from those who give up on enhancing their skills. Learning new things and acquiring new knowledge is what keeps the mind from losing its edge.
Stay fit for a long time: Resistance training is another way to make sure that the body stays young. It helps maintain muscle mass and body strength as people grow older. People over the age of 60, who want to incorporate resistance training in their daily exercise regimen, should focus on the leg muscles more as they are responsible for mobility, which gets restricted as we age.
Taking frequent walks for at least 150 minutes a week will ensure that the heart stays healthy. It is also very important to get a good night’s sleep as we grow older. If a person’s sleep pattern is erratic, then he/she must remove all distractions from in and around the sleeping area.
Those suffering from insomnia will benefit from following a restrictive sleep regimen. Limiting bed time makes a person sleepy and also promotes a sound and efficient night’s rest.
Thankfully, in urban areas the emphasis on exercise and fitness coupled with good nutrition has resulted in people remaining younger for a longer time. Challenging the mind and the body is the key to staying young longer.
Surround yourself with people who have the same youthful outlook to keep yourselves going. The more your personal hurdles, conquests and milestones, the younger you will stay on the inside, and that is the only number that counts.
(Writer: Kewal kapoor; Courtesy: The Pioneer)