Mark Twain is famous for saying, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Increasingly, the public and health experts are discovering the truth of Twain’s statement.
Our attitude toward the againg process makes all the difference in the world. Staying engaged and positive are key. People of advanced age have often done marvelous things – Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York when he was in his 90’s; Guiseppe Verdi wrote “Falstaff”, and Michaelangelo fashioned the magnificent dome of St. Paul’s basilica in their 80’s; and in her late 80’s Mary Baker Eddy founded The Christian Science Monitor.
Recently ABC News reported that although baby boomers, now starting to reach their 70’s, are living longer - they are not living healthier, and warns of rising healthcare costs. On a brighter note, the report indicated that lifestyle changes can help individuals live healthier lives.
A study by Yale University of 660 Ohioans showed that people with more positive attitudes lived seven and a half years longer than their contemporaries. According to The Associated Press, which published the study, “Researchers believe that positive thinking can increase a person’s will to live, making him or her more resilient and more proactive about health.”
While staying positive to improve aging seems simple enough, how one actually maintains optimism isn’t as simple. Numerous studies show that staying engaged in useful activities and meaningful relationships contributes significantly. Additionally, many are finding that feeling good about one’s life is more lasting when founded on faith. The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals indicates that their studies and observations have found that faith-based activity produces, “A sense of meaning and purpose in life, which affects health behaviors and social and family relationships.”
And a British study, based on evidence from over 1,200 studies and 400 reviews reported, "The overwhelming majority of scientific studies highlight the positive health benefits of faith, including protection from illness, coping with illness, and faster recovery from it."
My friend, Margaret, was a woman of great faith and would often say, “I don’t think old!” She meant that she would find beauty and wonder in each day. She felt this gave her life independence during her senior years.
I met her when she was over 70. She decided she would sell advertising for a newspaper she loved. She applied for the job and designed ads and went from door to door to businesses throughout her town selling newspaper advertising. When she needed help, she recruited a college student, me, and taught me how to proceed. It was one of my first jobs.
After a while, she retired only to manage a bookstore and coordinate a staff of over 20 individuals. Ask her why she was able to be so active – and she would inevitably point you to the Bible. She said that she found its message inspiring.
When she felt stale, she often contemplated these words from Psalms: “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand” (Ps. 139: 17, 18). Margaret knew times change, but she changed with them, kept active and more than positive; one might say uplifted.
We can all be more like Margaret if we choose to.
Thomas Mitchinson is a self-syndicated health columnist and the media representative for Christian Science in Illinois