The mind and the body are intertwined far more than most of us realize. There is an epidemic of depression and feelings of unworthiness among many seniors. This is nothing new and has been going on since the first person started aging and younger people started observing. And the words, the thoughts, and the expectations that we express about aging can actually affect the way we age.
“The expectations of aging will age you”, says Maxwell Maltz, author of the famous self-help book from the 1960s, Psycho-Cybernetics. He asks the question:
“Do We Sometimes Think Ourselves into Old Age?”
The traditional thinking was that a person becomes pretty much useless as he or she passes through seventy years old. The mandatory retirement age for many companies has traditionally been 65 or 70 years old. My father was a “young” 70 years old when he was forced, in 1978, to retire from being a well respected Law Professor at a prestigious Law School. I think they have discontinued the practice of mandatory retirement at age 70 by now. Seniors of that age used to be considered well past their functional prime and pretty much useless to society. No wonder many seniors experience those feelings of depression and unworthiness as they get older.
Maltz goes on to say:
“Or, in expecting ‘old age’ and fearing its onset, we may unwittingly do those very things necessary to bring it about. We begin to taper off on both physical and mental activity. Cutting out practically all vigorous physical activity, we tend to lose some of the flexibility of our joints. Lack of exercise causes our capillaries to constrict and virtually disappear, and the supply of life-giving blood through our tissues is drastically curtailed. Vigorous exercise is necessary to dilate the capillaries which feed all body tissues and remove waste products.”
Beliefs are a powerful motivator, both positive and negative. If our beliefs tell us that we are getting old and there is nothing we can do about it, then we will fulfill our expectations, and get old and decrepit. If, on the other hand, we believe that we have the ability to take positive action in both mind and body to slow the aging process, then we will fulfill those expectations and keep our youthful vigor.
What are those positive actions? Exercise, eating well, breathing deeply, getting plenty of rest of sleep, and equally important, maintaining a positive mind-set that is optimistic about our longevity and our own usefulness as we age.
Hmm. That’s a pretty powerful incentive to exercise and to maintain a positive and optimistic mind-set as we move through our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond, and to continue with physical exercise and optimism the rest of our lives.
Thank you for reading.