Conventional wisdom equates aging with decline but current research begs to differ.
CNN health blogger, Amanda Enayati, tells us "Why getting older just might be awesome":
“Research details a number of ways in which the brain actually improves with age. And what's even more interesting is that many of these advanced abilities correlate with key conceptual elements of innovation and creativity.”
Enayati coaches a Stanford University design course called, “Sustainable Abundance," so she’s on the cutting edge of current thought and research about creating a sustainable culture.
One of the most abundant resources we have in Florida is our seniors (65 and older), who make up about 17 percent of our population. We lead the nation here and I think that’s a good thing. Seniors are the fastest growing age group in every single state, not just Florida. On the face of it, caring for our seniors seems like a daunting challenge in the coming decades.
But what if we thought of our seniors as an appreciating asset rather than a growing liability?
Here are some facts about seniors from Enayati’s blog that point in that direction:
- Older people have a greater capacity for empathy because empathy is learned and refined as we age.
- As we age, we are better able to anticipate problems and reason things out than when we were young.
- Older folks have had a greater variety of experiences and are better able to build a wider image out of a lot of different parts of memory. They can make more connections because they have more things that have happened to them.
- Research shows that our complex reasoning skills continue to improve as we get older.
Enayati quotes Debra Dunn, a Stanford University professor and senior executive at Hewlett-Packard:
"Some of the most wonderfully innovative engineers I have known were older-timers."
According to Enayati, Dunn believes that older people’s perceptions of their own ability to contribute become powerful predictors of what they can and cannot achieve.
On the other coast, Linda Fried, geriatrician and dean of the Mailman School of Public Medicine at Columbia University, made some similar statements in a recent NYTimes interview titled, "Unafraid of Aging." Here's what she said:
"Part of a successful transition to being an aging society is to create new unanticipated roles through which older adults can stay engaged in ways that are deeply meaningful for them and make a profound difference for society. And if we create those roles we will actually amplify hugely the benefits ahead of us of being an aging society."
If we're ever tempted to doubt the profoundly positive force for good our seniors can be, here are a few good reminders:
- Mother Theresa wins the Nobel Peace Prize at 69.
- Benjamin Franklin signs the Declaration of Independence at 70.
- Nelson Mandela is elected President of South Africa at 76.
- Mary Baker Eddy starts The Christian Science Monitor at 87.
Seniors can help in small ways too. The small church I belong to in Belleair is pretty much run by seniors, many of them octogenarians. They send out email notices, make sure the website is up to date, pay the bills and trim the hedges. And perhaps most importantly, they help the church grow by generating new ideas. They are a huge asset.
If we look to our seniors for wisdom, reason and guidance, rather than decline and dependence, we might just find that our fasting growing age group is also our most valuable one.