Usually when the thought of getting older comes up it has a negative stigma around it, but growing older isn’t all that bad. The month of September is Healthy Aging Month and it is the month to bring awareness to the benefits of aging. According to Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging® Magazine and executive director of Healthy Aging® and creator of the holiday, says the holiday was “designed to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older.” We want to highlight four of the benefits of growing older, but there are so many more that it was hard to choose.
There are many benefits of growing older in relation to time. One being that you probably have more of it. You are no longer raising a family or putting in extra hours at work to get a promotion, and if your retired you have even more time to play with. This extra time can be used to pursue your dreams, start something new, and travel. This time is yours and you can do whatever you want with it. In fact, according to Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging® Magazine and executive director of Healthy Aging®, “it’s never too late to find a new career, a new sport, passion or hobby. And, now is the time to travel more than ever.”
Another aspect of time that gets better with age is your perspective of time. At this point, it no longer feels like you have all the time in the world, so you fully utilize the time that you have. Your priorities will become clearer and this allows you to focus on what is important and let go of what is trivial. This means spending your time doing what makes you happy and spending time with loved ones.
As one gets older their wisdom grows, this has a lot to do with their experiences and the time they have had to find themselves. In fact, several studies have found that people in their later years are better at giving advice, can see the big picture, and are more level headed. A study done at the University of Michigan analyzed age groups and the advice given and found that, “those over 60, as opposed to younger participants, offered a wider variety of options showing different points of view, multiple resolutions and suggested compromise.” Another study conducted brain scans on people with a range of ages and found that as one gets older they are more likely to activate both sides of their brain to do a task, showing reasoning and problem-solving skills tend to get sharper as you age. Allison Sekuler, PhD did a study analyzing younger and older people’s reactions to moving objects on a screen of varying shapes and shades, and found that, “young brains seemed better able at focusing on details to the exclusion of their surroundings while more mature brains can take in the entire scene.” In my opinion, the wiser person is the one that can see the big picture and not just see a funneled version.
Wisdom has a lot to do with being level headed as well, if you can control your emotions in making decisions and giving advice then it is more likely to be sound advice, unclouded by emotions. Emotions can make people say and do crazy things, so having control of your emotions is priceless. Need proof that as you age you have better control of your emotions? The Smithsonian Magazine highlighted a study done by German Researchers studying emotional control and age. They found that, “Unlike 20-somethings, those in their 60s didn’t agonize over losing, and they were less likely to try to redeem their loss by later taking big risks.” Being able to move on from undesirable outcomes and to not let it control what you do next is extremely beneficial. There are so many more studies out there that you can find that analyze the benefits of growing older regarding brain power, emotional response, and wisdom. In short, as you get older, you’re probably going to get wiser.
3) Self Awareness and Happiness
With aging comes experience and growth as a person. You have been through most of the stages of life and experienced some of the most challenging times in your life. You know what you are capable of, what you like, and who you are, you’ve become self-aware. According to the Dictionary, Self-awareness is defined as, “conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires.” With this awareness comes a greater management of emotions, confidence, and self-worth, all leading towards happiness.
One may never be fully self-aware, but as you age you get closer and closer to this. When you are younger, negative emotions, undesirable outcomes, and what others think can weigh heavily on your conscious. Often, youngsters succumb to the outside world, letting others, fear of failure and negative emotions dictate who they are, what they do, and how they feel. In your early stages and even into the mid stages of life, you haven’t fully figured yourself out, there’s still a lot of learning that must be done and a lot of mistakes that have to happen. In aging you’ve figured yourself out (or gotten closer), you’ve experience different situations and outcomes, you’ve accomplished your goals, you’ve conquered your fears that may have held you back at one point, and most importantly you’ve failed, made mistakes and learned from them. In accomplishing all of this, there is freedom. Freedom from outside stigmas like opinions and emotions. Freedom from the fear. Freedom to be you.
In your later years, you become the top of the family tree. One can look at this as a bad thing and dwell on who you’ve lost, but in reality, it’s a blessing. You have gone through the joys and hardships of raising a family, and now you get to sit back and enjoy. Roles reverse, and now you’re the one getting a firm talking because you over spoiled your grandchildren or took them to something that their parents frowned upon. You get to be the fun grandparents, that play an essential role in a child’s development. On top of all that, you get to see the fruits of your labor. All those years of parenting, the sleepless nights, the worry, the ups and downs are all behind you. You’ve done your job and now you get to be proud.
Another huge benefit from your family is that you get to learn from them. As you get older, the world and technology evolve, and it is easy to get left behind. Family gives you generations and perspectives for all these changes, they will be able to help you learn and keep you up to date. You’ll always have someone to turn to if you need help.
Growing older isn’t a choice and may not be the best scenario, but it’s unavoidable. It is better to embrace what you cannot change then to dwell on it. Ironically, this is a realization that comes with aging. The fact is aging has a lot of benefits that overshadow the negatives associated with it, but there is still a negative stigma surrounding aging. With a negative stigma being the dominant view, people tend to hold on to the negative and miss the positives. Maybe, if more people would focus on the benefits, then the negative stigmas surrounding aging would dissipate and a positive light would take its place. One day, everyone will realize that senior discounts aren’t even the best part of aging!