As a society we seem to have developed an obsessive fear of ageing – gone are the days when age was something to be respected, as conferring experience and wisdom. (If Hamlet were set today, would it still be believable that Laertes would bother sitting through Polonius’ advice? Grunting at his Facebook feed on his mobile phone throughout, perhaps). Even the very young are terrified of growing old – twenty-somethings are obsessed with wrinkles, teenagers are getting Botox , and adverts berate you for not slathering yourself in age-busting unguents.
But why have we developed this attitude? Is it not still the case ageing has plenty to offer us? After all, many of us will potentially have decades after retirement in which to change and develop – perhaps even to “find ourselves”, as the quintessentially youthful expression goes. Those are years in which we can be defined by what we choose to do with ourselves, with our new-found freedom from work – and yet it seems like in the popular imagination our sunset years are all blurred together into a grey-haired, homogeneous mass.
In fact, there’s reason to think that being so negative about ageing isn’t just wrong – it’s actually bad for us. A recent study  found that attitudes about age are linked to levels of stress among older people. The study found that ‘those with more negative ageing attitudes reported increased emotional reactivity to daily stressors’ – that is, older adults who feel less positive about the process of ageing will tend to feel more stress in general.
The study reached this conclusion by distributing daily diaries to 43 older adults, after surveying their attitudes to ageing on the first day. Over nine days, participants were asked to report their response to daily stressors – things like health worries or disagreements that they’ve had. It was found that their attitudes to ageing predicted their response to stressors – the more negative an attitude to ageing, the worse stressors would affect them.
This wasn’t just down to a general negative attitude, which might result in participants being negative both about ageing and about daily inconveniences. Instead, the study was able to separate out attitudes to ageing in particular – and found that it was those specific negative attitudes that were linked to greater stress.
The study concluded that ‘possessing more positive views one’s own aging is associated with higher levels of life satisfaction’. So it’s something to bear in mind next time you encounter society’s negative stereotypes about ageing. It’s important to stay upbeat about your age – after all, there’s a lot to celebrate about getting older, with all the maturity, wisdom and freedom that it brings. Here at Wellman, we want to make growing older as easy and enjoyable an experience as possible – so if you’re encountering any stressors as you age, let us lend a hand. That way, you’ll be able to have the happy retirement you deserve.