SUCCESSFUL AGING

 by Elizabeth Geiling, MSED, LMHC

We have all heard that “60 is the new 50!”  What this popular adage is communicating is that most of us are going to have a longer life expectancy than previous generations. Developmental psychologists refer to this as the “rectangularization” of the population.  Simply put, more people are going to live into late adulthood with the variability of the age of death being tighter. The face of our society will be an equal distribution of young and old. 

As most people will acknowledge, a long life is a mixed blessing. On the positive side, successful aging involves a longer connection to loved ones, good physical and mental health and the financial resources to live comfortably throughout retirement. Conversely, aging has significant losses attached to it and helping people to cope with these challenges is somewhat unchartered territory for our society. However, there are many ways to navigate the losses that are inherent to late adulthood.

  1. Loss of loved ones: Enduring the loss of a spouse, child, sibling and dear friends is indeed the hardest part of aging. Although it is a natural and expected part of life, we are deeply wounded and a part of us dies when we lose our loved ones.  The Harvard Study on Happiness reports that the quality of our relationships is going to determine how happy we are and how we manage the losses in life.  Be intentional about making friends and keep relationships strong. It is especially important to stay connected to younger family members. This ensures that your loved ones are all ages and are involved in many aspects of daily living. Commit to staying engaged.
  1. Loss of relevance: Some older people feel like they live in a world that has moved past them and they are being left behind. Perhaps you don’t understand the latest social media app, but get out there and do something! There are many opportunities to connect and share your expertise. Volunteer to help at a church, museum, or food bank. Assume that others are looking for things to do, and join them in new experiences.
  1. Loss of movement: As the body ages there are many less than desirable physical experiences. Many people experience pain and difficulty moving. Simply walking around the neighborhood each day has proven to be physically and psychologically helpful. With a doctor’s approval, a regular work out schedule can be beneficial. Move it or lose it!
  1. Loss of positive attitude: Many of the changes of late adulthood cannot be controlled. Neuroscience reports that our remarkable brain is constantly rewiring based on repeated experience. Feeling sorry for yourself or regularly engaging in negative thoughts changes our brain and makes us less able to meet the challenges of daily living. Commit to positive self –talk and believe in resilience. Successful engaging involves a CAN DO ATTITUDE.

At any age, life’s challenges can be overwhelming. Please keep in mind that there are many places, especially The Lutheran Counseling Center that can help you manage the rough patches.         For more information or to set an appointment, please call the Lutheran Counseling Center at 1-800-317-1173 or e-mail us at Center@lccny.org. LCC has nine counseling sites over the New York metropolitan and surrounding area.
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Elizabeth Geiling, MSED, LMHC, received her undergraduate degree from Concordia College in Bronxville, NY. and her Master’s degree and Professional Diploma in Counseling from Fordham University, NY. Mrs. Geiling holds a NY state license as a Mental Health Counselor as well as being a Certified School Psychologist and Guidance Counselor. She currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia College, Bronxville, NY, teaching courses in general, developmental, abnormal and counseling psychology. Her work experience includes college, community and school counseling for individuals and groups. She serves as a Mental Health Counselor for the Lutheran Counseling Center at our sites in Bronxville, and at Advent in Manhattan. Her practice includes young children, adolescents and adults.
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