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Are You Ageist Against Yourself? Embracing Ageless Living for Better Health

If you’ve ever thought, ‘I’m too old for this,” or joke to others about having a “senior moment,” it’s time to change your mind set on growing older. Medical experts and researchers warn it’s fundamental for your health – do yourself a favor and think twice before engaging in any negative self-talk about aging!  

Often our internal dialogue and deepest thoughts, can shape our experiences more than we realize. In a groundbreaking study, internal ageism, or our own negative perceptions on aging, can profoundly impact our health, longevity, and the risk of dementia.  

What is Self-Inflicted Ageism? 

"Older adults have never really thought that they were practicing ageism against themselves, and this can drastically limit our potential for growth and vitality,” said Connie Rasmussen, Director of Rehabilitation and Special Programs at Acts Retirement-Life Communities. Rasmussen recently gave a widely popular presentation to Acts residents about the often overlooked issue of self-inflicted ageism and how to combat it.  

"When people believe that aging is a negative time of life, they are more likely to have a negative experience,” she said, citing research published by a team from the University of Oklahoma, Norman and the University of Michigan.  

The recent study found nearly all older adults have experienced some forms of “everyday ageism,” but those who experienced higher rates of ageism were more likely to have poor physical or mental health and more chronic health conditions. (Source: American Medical Association/JAMA) 

Breaking the Age Code 

Dr. Becca Levy, author of “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long & Well You Live,” who also tracked people over time and found that older people with more positive age beliefs were much less likely to develop dementia. In fact, even those participants who carried a gene that puts them at higher risk for Alzheimer’s, were nearly 50% less likely to develop the disease than their peers who held negative age beliefs. (Source: Yale School of Public Health) 

Dr. Levy found people with a more positive mindset on growing older outlived their pessimistic peers, an average 7.5 years longer. Her research found adults with a negative view on aging are less motivated to prioritize their health and fitness, and often are less confident in social settings, which could lead to withdrawal and isolation. Negative emotions can also elevate biological stress levels, hereby increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke. 

Want to live better longer? Here are 7 ways living in a retirement community benefits your health!

How To Shift Your Mindset 

“Multiple studies show, when shift our mindset on ageing as a time for growth, joy and vitality, we end up living purpose-driven, vibrant lives with joy and vitality,” Rasmussen said. 

“Acts residents enjoyed learning about ageless living – seeing 100 and 102-year-olds running marathons or sprinting 100-yard dashes,” she said, “It’s amazing what can happen when we don’t limit ourselves and are surrounded with resources for support. At Acts, we have so many resources to help residents lead more vibrant lives.” 

Acts Retirement-Life Communities offer ample opportunities for this transformative mindset to flourish. Through initiatives like the THRIVE program, residents are empowered to proactively manage their health and fitness, guided by senior living experts, and access to programs from preventing falls to enhancing cognitive function and mood. 

“We created programs to help residents increase their physical activity, have better sleep, less pain and better brain function,” Rasmussen said. “This also reduces the effects of chronic diseases, preventing falls, the list is endless.” 

Norm Colb, a resident of St. Andrews Estates, in Boca Raton, Florida, said the move to his Acts community profoundly changed his lifestyle - for the better. 

“Living at an Acts community is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, far exceeding what I had hoped when I moved here from California,” Colb said. “One of the reasons I’m so enthusiastic about living here, is my physical therapist who introduced me to Activator Poles, so I’m able to be more active and social.” 

“If left to myself, I would not be a walker,” he admitted. “I’m fairly lazy, but these simple sticks have really changed my life. I can’t imagine going a day without them.” 

Growing Younger: Resident says he's "aging backwards" by staying active at his Acts community

Powerful Transformations 

Moving to an Acts community was also transformative for Rosemary Hart, a resident of Westminster Village in Spanish Fort, Alabama, who was moved to tears when speaking about the THRIVE with Acts program. 

“I had failed the balance portion of my initial evaluation,” she said. “It wasn’t surprised because I walked everywhere with a cane. I had polio as a child and didn’t have any problems until recently.” 

She met with her community’s nurse practitioner who referred her to begin physical therapy with an individualized approach suited to her needs.

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Hart said. “Now, I don’t need my cane. I got my walk back, and I’m so thankful to Acts.” 

Another Acts resident, Susan Dube, of Westminster Village, had thought she was in excellent physical shape after moving in. She couldn’t believe all the positive health changes a year later. 

“I'm shocked at how much healthier I am,” she said. “My last THRIVE with Acts screening was off the charts better a year after I came in, and all I was doing was going to the (TheraBand) class three times a week and walking around campus.” 

She added, “I look at friends my age, and some younger, and their health is declining, while I’m in better shape. This is life giving!” 

Rasmussen likens a positive mindset on aging, and the right resources, to a plant able to weather any storm. 

“This support is readily available to all residents living at an Acts community,” she added. “Ageless living is our specialty.” 

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