Successful Aging

By Erlene Rosowsky, PsyD, Director of the Center for Mental Health and Aging; Core Faculty in the Clinical Psychology Department October 05, 2015

Erlene Rosowsky, PsyD, Director of the Center for Mental Health and Aging; Core Faculty in the Clinical Psychology Department

Getting older has its challenges. The iconic bumper sticker “Old age is not for sissies” had it right. It’s not. The good news is that older adults are not sissies. We didn’t just wake up one day at age 70 or 80 or (your age here), we got there! And in getting there we have learned a lot. Some of what we’ve learned is referred to as coping, or resilience, or often wisdom. Whatever it is called, Successful Aging relies heavily on what we have learned along the way.

There are many positives of being an older adult. Among them are a broader, deeper view of the world and how to survive in it, and more comfort and acceptance of who we are. 

Tips in Support of Good Mental Health and Successful Aging

  • Reminiscence is not an idle pastime. It is purposeful and useful. It supports the continuity of who we are, even when our bodies, abilities and circumstances change. Especially helpful is reminiscing about good times and how problems have been faced, solved and endured in the past. 
  • Commitment takes energy and energy becomes an increasingly precious commodity as we age. But it is important to put some energy into what we feel passionate about. So, don’t hold back too much. Allow enthusiasm! 
  • Optimism. It makes for a good discussion if and how optimism can be trained. But we do know it can be encouraged. Sometimes it just takes a bit of an attitude adjustment. Thinking kindly, rather than critically, of others and being willing to initiate optimism through even simple behaviors such as an honest compliment or a genuine smile. Why not? (As my Grandmother would say, “It doesn’t cost extra!”) 
  • Spirituality and Creativity. These are important routes to equanimity, acceptance and joy as they allow us to compensate for loss, provide courage to face challenges, and the ability to find treasure in “what is.” 
  • Altruism and Humor. Doing for others helps them, helps us and all the lives we touch. As for humor…well life is funny, unpredictable and whimsical. Successful aging includes laughing well and often!