While some may view the ageing process through the lens of increasing physical and mental limitation, others celebrate the sense of anticipation and wisdom that comes with age. So how do we adapt more positively to life’s challenges?
Australia’s oldest working artist, Guy Warren, has lived through the Great Depression, fought in World War II and emerged untouched by the last two global health pandemics.
Though there are parts of ageing that he doesn’t enjoy, unlike many of his contemporaries he still lives independently, holds a driver’s licence and enjoys a full work schedule with at least five exhibitions scheduled for 2021. The difference is his mindset.
"There’s always something to do. There’s always something to look forward to. One shouldn’t look back too much, one should instead look forward," says Mr Warren.
So why do some of us approach getting older with a sense of excitement and others a sense of fear?
The answer is resilience – or more specifically, the way those aged 65 and over are able to adapt in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress.
The Flinders Centre for Ageing Studies released their 2015 report, Ageing Well: Building Resilience in Individuals and Communities in which they found that having a higher sense of purpose in life and a more optimistic outlook buffered against the association between negative life events.
The report says, "People with more flexible coping styles who are able to both persist with attainable goals and redefine or replace unattainable goals, had lower levels of psychological distress irrespective of the number of negative life events they reported."
Fortunately, resilience can be learned.
A 2016 study published in Geriatric Nursing showed that there are several key characteristics in three key categories shared by those aged 65 and over who were able to face challenges and come out the other side.
Mental characteristics: Adaptive coping styles, gratitude, happiness, mental health and optimism or hopefulness.
Social characteristics: Community involvement, contact with family and friends, a sense of purpose and positive relationships.
Physical characteristics: The ability to remain physically independent and mobile, enjoy good health and the belief that they were able to age successfully.
These and other findings suggest that all Australians have the capacity to build and demonstrate resilience, regardless of socioeconomic backgrounds, personal experiences, or social environments.
Some tips for building resilient ageing include:
Maintain an optimistic attitude
Maintain perspective; don’t let your thoughts run away with you
Engage in new activities
Cultivate new friendships or join a social group
Accept that some things are out of your control
Take action on the things you can impact
Practice stress-management techniques
Consider developing a spiritual practice such as prayer, meditation or yoga
Practice self-care through proper nutrition, regular exercise and good sleep habits
Try volunteering your time to help others
Ask for help when you need it
(Source: The American Seniors Housing Association)
Building a resilient future in your own home can be supported through guidance and help from home care provider, Just Better Care. To learn more about the services they provide, visit the Just Better Care website.