The emotions around aging are myriad. From a counselor’s perspective, the following three steps will help those who get the privilege of growing old to do so gracefully.
- Do what is within your control.
Acceptance is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “a willingness to tolerate a difficult or unpleasant situation.”
Aging often brings with it limitations that are difficult and unpleasant. Acceptance begins with acknowledging with neutrality that physical bodies change, stamina changes, relationships change — things just change. How one responds to change is based on his/her thoughts.
This leads to step two of mindset — managing thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based approach to counseling. It is rooted in the idea that thoughts impact feelings and feelings impact behavior.
When clients learn how to identify negative thoughts and learn to reframe them, then more positive emotions emerge leading to better behavior outcomes.
Reframing is not lying to oneself. It is choosing to think another thought about the situation that would lead to a better outcome. Instead of thinking of a limitation, the person would be encouraged to reframe that thought.
For example, say the words “I’m old” to yourself. Notice how that makes you feel. As a 60-year-old, it doesn’t make me feel good about myself.
However, if I say, “I am experienced” or “I am a mature woman,” I feel more positive about myself and what I can offer to the world.
This leads to a feeling of motivation which would then lead to doing something engaging instead of isolating oneself.
Many myths exist regarding aging. Some of these include thoughts like the elderly cannot learn new things, all elderly get dementia, the elderly should take it easy or the elderly should not drive.
These ideas as general statements and assumptions across the board could not be further from the truth.
The National Institute on Aging identified actions you can take to help manage health, live independently as possible and maintain quality of life. All of the actions listed are within the control of most people.
These include eating a healthy diet, prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated and moving the body.
Others include staying connected to friends, focusing on hobbies and keeping consistent with physician appointments.
No reason to fear
By focusing on acceptance, minding our thoughts and taking control of the things we can, we can face aging with hope.
Need more assurance? Go to your Bible and read Isaiah 46:4.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Kelly Arant, M.ED., NCC, LPC-S. Arant is a registered play therapist and clinical director for Pathways Professional Counseling, a nonprofit ministry of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.