What Is Successful Aging, Really?

What Is Successful Aging, Really?

Successful aging isn’t about having the body and face that you had at the age of 20 when you’re 80. That’s not possible or possibly even preferable. It definitely would be exhausting for the 80 year old. Successful aging is about enjoying your life to the optimal level regardless of age.

Merely being able to wake up and listen to a bird singing, and to fix your own breakfast is a wonderful deal for many older people, although that may not appear to be an exciting proposition to many 20 year olds. Although this may be only an example, it reveals some of the more important secrets of successful aging. Mary O’Brien M.D., stated in her book Successful Aging “People who age successfully spend a lifetime appreciating and enjoying the little, simple pleasures other people overlook-a beautiful flower, a walk in the woods, or the sound of the birds singing in the early morning.”

She continued in stating that “The ability to experience pleasure is a hallmark of successful aging.” However, it’s important to note that pleasure doesn’t exist if you’re not consciously aware of it. If you don’t notice the beautiful sunset it is not part of your reality and cannot increase your experience of pleasure. Mary O’Brien stated “The bad news is that we all miss hundreds of opportunities to experience pleasure every day. The good news is, we can train ourselves to be far more perceptive and appreciative.”

Although there are many important aspects to successful living, one of the most important is to have a sense of purpose in your life. This sense of purpose goes way beyond your profession or job. Many people seem to define themselves according to what they do for a living. This is frequently one of the first questions asked at a party, or when people meet for the first time.

This job or profession focused identity really doesn’t become much of a problem until after retirement. After retirement, this can become a bona fide identity crisis. If you have identified yourself for the last 40 years by your professional identity; it can sometimes mean a sudden drop in self-esteem.

Without a clear sense of purpose in life, some older people may feel like they have become “just another retired old guy.” Successful agers know why they’re here and what their purpose is in life. They have a sense of contributions that they can make in the world and in the lives of other people.

Information adapted from Successful Aging by Mary O’Brien M.D.

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

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