In our culture, from an early age we are conditioned to believe aging is something to avoid at all costs, and that with more years behind us, we gradually outlive our usefulness and sense of joyful curiosity. There seems to be an unspoken expectation to stay youthful, but not appear to be trying too hard, and to keep active, yet not dramatically challenge the status quo. But what would happen if instead of fighting off the inevitable, we embraced aging and looked forward to the simple joys and many ways life gets better as we get older?
According to a recent TED “How to Be a Better Human” series post, research shows mindfully seeking out things in our environment that inspire awe and joy not only boosts mood but can increase feelings of kindness and generosity. Intentionally looking for the beauty in nature, the unabashed smile of a child, or the comfort of a pet can have a measurable positive effect on the sense of happiness and satisfaction older adults feel each day.
Cultural events and social activities also reinforce well-being among people of all ages and can reduce mortality rates in seniors. Attending worship services, going to plays or the movies, dining out with friends or watching sporting events in person can all help older adults stay socially connected, promote a sense of belonging, and deepen existing relationships with shared experiences. Doctors have even gone so far as “prescribing” art museum visits to their patients to improve mental health.
Seeking out activities and environments that stimulate the senses may also help to prevent or delay neurological changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. By surrounding ourselves with colourful art, plants or flowers, music, and spending time in nature, we help to increase joy and support physical and cognitive health and well-being in older age.
So often mindset is the key to how we approach life’s circumstances. A positive, growth mindset helps us overcome difficulties, and maintain a sense of purpose and connection. Whether it’s learning to navigate new technology to stay socially connected, or learning how to play Pickleball, keeping physically, socially and cognitively engaged helps older adults keep doing the things they love as long as possible.
Read more about finding joy all around you by following this link to The Aesthetics of Joy website.