INTRODUCTION AND REASONS FOR WRITING ABOUT POSITIVE AGEING
“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”
– Marcus Aurelius AD 121-180 - Roman Emperor and Philosopher
Unless you die young, there is no alternative to ageing.
How you do it is your decision.
This is the central tenet of this book.
It has always seemed wrong to me and very unfortunate that the entry and
exit points of our lives are so fraught with myth, prejudice and misinformation.
Isn’t it ironic that because we are so afraid to face these issues they become
so problematic?There are very few normal life situations so capable of filling
us with abject terror, as ageing - except perhaps childbirth. At least with
childbirth, half of the world’s population never experience it physically
themselves, the pain is relatively short-lived, and there is the joy and promise
of a new beginning to look forward to.
Ageing, on the other hand, is generally seen as the situation where, no matter
how much we resist, suffering and death are the ultimate outcome – it seems
to be a no-win situation. Small wonder then that many of us will do anything to
avoid thinking about it, spend millions on remedies and surgical interventions
in the vain hope of averting its ultimate victory over us, or avoid facing it
altogether and end up fatally unprepared for the last leg of life’s journey.
And then, instead of achieving magnificent fulfilment at the end of a good life,
we end up in the pit of our own manifested fears and negative self-fulfilling
WE CAN LEARN TO CONQUER OUR FEARS
“The fear of ageing can be worse than ageing itself.” – John Lane
I’ve had the privilege of attending the births of all six my grandchildren so far
and have experienced with their parents the enormous difference that proper
planning, preparation and support on the physical, mental, emotional and
spiritual levels can make to the whole birthing experience. I’ve seen how
anxiety can be replaced by calm concentration and what a difference love
makes to the capacity for endurance of physical challenge. By demystifying
the birthing process and re-framing it positively, educating the parents and
allowing them to take charge and to make informed decisions, childbirth can
be transformed from an unspeakable horror to one of life’s most precious
peak experiences. That is what is I envisage for the
ageing experience also.
“…the values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.” - Gladwell
“I don't believe one grows older. I think that what happens early on in life is that at a certain age one stands still and stagnates.” -T.S. Eliot
As a child I was intrigued by my grandparents’ attitude about ageing. My grandfather sat on the stoep, basically waiting for death from his early forties, whilst my grandmother hovered and relished in the misfortunes of family and neighbours. Their world was confined to their farm and immediate vicinity, and to me they seemed really old in appearance and attitude, although they could only have been in their early fifties when I was a young girl.
“Growing old is a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.” - Andre Maurois
Even in those days the thought of just relinquishing one’s life to fate and giving up one’s hopes and dreams without any effort to the contrary, was abhorrent to me. It seemed so much more sensible to make plans and not be caught off-guard, to be pro-active rather than reactive, and to have some sense of control over your circumstances. I decided early on that living without regret and guilt was one of my major goals in life and definitely no “fidgeting until you die” for me. I need to know that I’ve done everything in my power to address a situation well, and to leave the rest in God’s hands. Those decisions have stood me in good stead.
“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman
As a psychologist I find myself wondering why we sometimes get so stuck and unable to change our situations for the better, and I am struck by how hard it is for some of us to let go of what is not working in our relationships or life situations.
“Being stuck is a position few of us like. We want something new but cannot let go of the old - old ideas, beliefs, habits, even thoughts. We are out of contact with our own genius. Sometimes we know we are stuck; sometimes we don't. In both cases we have to DO something.” - Rush Limbaugh
People’s ways of seeing and being in the world intrigue me and I am convinced that our un-edited attitudes, values and beliefs are “the sins of the fathers that visit upon us into the third and the fourth generations.” Those sins will continue to haunt us, until we realise that we have choices and can begin to take control of our lives.
But, some of these ruling beliefs are so deeply ingrained into our subconscious programming that we may not think to challenge them, and live our lives without ever breaking out of the misery created by our early programming. Beliefs about ageing, what happens to one’s body as one ages and how much control one has over the ageing process fall squarely into this category.
This reminds me of the Andy Capp joke where his wife, Flo, challenges him about looking somewhat dishevelled and asks him why he did not shave. He answers indignantly that of course he did, and what’s more, the blade is good enough for him as it was good enough for his father and his grandfather before him…
My intention for Positive Ageing is for all of us to wake up – even more than we already have. This book is about becoming aware of our beliefs and attitudes about ageing, how they are transmitted and how they are embedded in our subconscious programming. It is about challenging the status quo. It is about recognising what we can influence in our lives and doing it; and it is about accepting what we cannot influence and finding creative ways of living with it. It is about choosing a positive path for ourselves and adjusting our situation as we go along, always keeping our ultimate goal in mind – the person I want to be and the life that I want to live.
“For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.” - (Mother Goose Rhyme, 1695)
…and grant us the wisdom to know the difference.
Positive Ageing originated as a workshop for psychologists to help themselves and their clients deal with changing life stages positively, and developed further into a workshop for the general public.
It is an applied psychology project, and draws on the work of many well-known researchers and thinkers in the fields of exercise, nutrition, motivation, neuro-linguistic programming, positive psychology, epigenetics and behavioural science. It is about the “how come” as well as the “how to” of spectacularly successful living and ageing. It is about making their research accessible to all of us.
Positive Ageing is about being positive in thought and action. It is about being pro-active in one’s own best interest, tackling challenging situations head-on and using resources, especially inner resources, consciously and wisely in the direction of a desired outcome. It encourages the reader to plan and be prepared rather than being an ostrich with its head in the sand when it is too late to make a significant difference to its circumstances. It is about aiming to soar and enjoy the culmination of our life’s journey - to finish the final flight with a flourish.
In earlier times life was short, sharp and brutal. But now we experience new freedoms, better medical and nutritional care for many, as well as access to cutting edge research and up-to-date information about how to stay healthy and fit for a long time. Coupled with the latest research on positive ageing, we have tools at our disposal for making sure that we continue to grow and enjoy health and happiness as mature adults. Many more people realise they have choices in life and do not have to do operate from a “default” or unconscious position any longer. But what is this default position and how did we acquire it and why is it so often negative? That is what I propose we explore together. Life can be exceptional with the proper application of four important behavioural steps - awareness, attention, intention and action. How this can be applied in the arena of positive ageing forms the backbone of this book.
“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” – Helen Keller
Information to be used at your own risk.
Any suggestions or opinions voiced in these pages are those of the authors, and in no way to be constructed as final treatment advice. They are intended as a starting point to develop your own preparation and treatment plan. Please consult your medical and/or psychological experts or caregivers to fine-tune the advice and suggestions for your own unique needs.