As we discussed in the previous post, aging is a continual process of change that may elicit many emotions including confusion, anger, fear, feelings of loss and lack of hope. While these are predictable responses to change, there are ways to handle these emotions and emerge more resilient and adaptable! Understanding the physical and emotional changes that come with age is the first step in this process. Knowledge is power!
Let’s start with a simple question, “Why do we age?” Popular science names many possible causes from free radical damage (the reason my skin is wrinkled) to slowing metabolism (the reason I can’t lose weight) to loss of immune system function (the reason I get ill more often). Some of the common and irritating consequences of physical aging include decreased stamina, hearing loss and vision changes. Other changes are more challenging and limiting. For example, decreased strength, poor balance that results in falls, and memory lapses. All of these physical changes have emotional consequences and lead us to ask if there are any advantages to growing old? The answer isn’t obvious, and when asked this question, most people see no advantage to getting older! They reproducibly say that they wouldn’t want to live to be 150 years old! However, scientific research on aging and emotions revealed a paradox. In the old way of thinking, aging was viewed as a process that resulted in decline both emotionally and physically. However, the new way of thinking says that aging is a continual maturation process across our lifespan. The result is increased emotional well-being!
In our next post, we will begin to explore this paradox and gain a deeper understanding of our emotions as we age.