Regardless of your age, you always want to feel heathy and agile, and doing so begins with your fitness and nutrition… it’s foundational. And we all know that cognitive and emotional engagement, and becoming involved in a purpose bigger than yourself plays a huge role.
So which one affects longevity the most? None of the above.
Subjective age, or how young or old you see yourself relative to your chronological age influences your longevity more than fitness, nutrition or engagement. Having a positive subjective age - having positive feelings about your chronological age, leads to a wide range of positive outcomes including, higher psychological well-being and better physical and cognitive functioning.
Negative subjective age can literally kill you sooner. Researchers found that older adults who harbor negative attitudes about their age lived on average of 7.5 years shorter*. Research also warns of an increase in the bio-markers for Dementia, negative psychological and behavioral impacts, and a higher risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Negative attitudes about aging damage our sense of self, they keep us from pursuing new opportunities and segregate us from others.
But we can’t just blame ourselves for our negative thoughts...
Ageism serves an economic purpose.
In 2018, the global anti-aging market was estimated to be worth about 63 billion U.S. dollars - and a A Yale School of Public Health study calculated that the $63 billion a year is spent on health care for eight expensive conditions… all because of ageism. That discrimination accounts for $1 of every $7 spent on 8 chronic conditions. And the global anti-aging market is estimated to see a compound annual growth rate of 5.7 percent between now and 2023.
When you live in a society where people in power give so much meaning to how we look to legitimize and sustain inequalities between groups, it’s no wonder that Ageism, Racism and Sexism flourish.
We see Ageism everywhere from the daily bombardment of media advertising and entertainment to any time someone assumes that we’re “too old” for something. Most folks over 60 that feel invisible have good reason to think that way.
Which is specifically why we should fight to change the way we think about ourselves and aging.… beginning with educating others around us. Grassroots education is the only way to move toward making societal change.
Aging Education combats ageism and will help people to reimagine aging as a time of continued growth, development and fulfillment, and it’s up to all of us to spread the word. And like most things, it begins within ourselves. The next time you catch yourself thinking negatively about your aging self, think about all the good things you could do with another 7-1/2 years on the planet.
*Levy BR et al. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002 83(2):261-270.