are you talking yourself into an early grave?
I've heard somewhere that 50 is the new 30 (or something like that), though you'd think it's more like 30 is the new 70, if I had to go by what so many of my clients determine to be the cause of their aches and pains. (And far be it from me to judge - I secretly lamented the same thing somewhere around turning 45....)
Age (in some cases) is no doubt a factor when it comes to decline in certain mental and physical functions.
But, at which point does our expectation spill over into self-fulfilling prophecy, influencing what we believe we're capable of? And what we're not?
Today, I'm touting Katy Bowman's latest book, "Dynamic Aging", because you know... Katy.
But also, because before even reading it, I had been wondering about the effect our stories about aging (told to ourselves, to each other, by the media, and even by science) has on our perceptions.
It's hard to escape the endless stream of messages - in the form of products, services, medications - that if you (or someone you love) is of a certain age, you better prepare for a life of decreased mobility, increased dependence, and a steady downward slope into, well, you know.
We might do well to question this.
I was thrilled to see just in the introduction a study Katy cites that was created to measure the impact of positive and negative stereotype reinforcement on a group of women and men between the ages of 63 and 82.
While playing a video game embedded with subliminal messages, one half of the group was exposed to words like senile, dependent and diseased; the other, to wise, astute, and accomplished ... all the while measuring their gait speed and balance.
In 30 minutes, the positively reinforced group made improvements - without any kind of other exercise training or intervention.
Stated in the study's conclusion: "In the future, positive changes in society's view of aging may also help to reduce and prevent age-related declines in function and the associated deleterious consequences."
This is encouraging.
And yet, as Katy further points out, age appears frequently as a factor in research because it's an easier variable to quantify, than say, one's movement behavior over time.
Meaning, science highlighting age over other factors - like our culture's sedentarism - as the cause of degeneration, continues to reinforce the perception that the two go hand in hand.
To complicate matters further, a parallel message runs in the background (and foreground): the sacred cows of ease and convenience.
We hear it all the time: why expend valuable time and effort when you can simply (insert whatever movement- diminishing device here)?
As humans naturally wired to conserve energy, the siren song of technology is hard to resist, though all the while overlooking or ignoring the connection between cause and effect.
And so, now... I want to challenge you to a little observational exercise.
If you have a t.v. or find yourself in front of one, especially during the daytime hours, take note of how many commercials are selling you something to make your life easier. Also, how many do you see pushing products (medications, safety devices, insurance, etc) geared to those over 50?
For contrast, do some research on people (in our country or elsewhere) who are thriving at older ages without a lot of this stuff, and what they attribute this to.
You can start here:
Last week, the Today Show featured 'super-agers' ... 70- and 80-somethings who are remarkably defying the expectations of physical and mental decline we've come to assume as typical for that age. (And yes, Katy's in here, too - featuring her book!)
Their secret? Choosing to challenge their brains and bodies on a daily basis.
(For the record, the women featured in Dynamic Aging had not been flipping on monkey bars since birth.
They came to Katy with issues like scoliosis, pelvic prolapse, degenerating knees. Two were facing surgery. Their stories are amazing, and it is my hope that stories such as this will become commonplace enough to not make the news.)
And now, for your final bonus challenge: Pay attention to your own thoughts and words regarding age. Notice how those thoughts may be affecting what you choose to do, or not do, with the precious moments of your life.
So, whaddya think? Impossible or encouraging? Please let me know your thoughts and findings in the comments below.