We’ve all heard the expression, “You’re only as old as you feel.” But is this true? “Yes,” says Dr. Edward Hagen, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Hagen has completed a fellowship in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. “You can’t stop aging,” he says. “But you can improve on how you age. It all starts with your attitude, your environment, your lifestyle, your foods, your emotions. While you can’t stop aging,” he says, “you can age better.” A positive attitude can help.
Having a Positive Mental Attitude
“If you have a ‘doom and gloom’ attitude as you get older, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything,’ that may become true. However, if you approach aging with thoughts such as ‘I’m going to stay active,’ ‘I’m going to travel,’ or ‘I’m going to take care of my health,’ you age better,” says Dr. Hagen. A study of the attitudes of 72 older Americans, between the ages of 60 and 99, supports this approach. Participants of the study reported several psychosocial factors as the key to successful aging, including:
· The need for a positive attitude, realistic perspective, and the ability to adapt for change
· Social support, stability and security in one’s living environment,
· General physical health as well as
· A sense of engagement, reflected in the pursuit of continued stimulation, learning, and a feeling of purpose and usefulness.
Incorporating Yoga and Meditation
Incorporating yoga and meditation can provide benefits as we age. “We encourage all our patients to meditate and practice yoga,” says Dr. Hagen. “A lot of people think they are not good at meditation or yoga, but it’s a practice. It is not a competition. It is at your own pace.” Yoga and meditation can both enhance one’s positive attitude towards their situation at any age.
Among the many benefits of meditation, Dr. Hagen points out, “mediation decreases bad thoughts and stress. Stress is an inflammatory process which impacts aging.” Studies show psychological stress plays a major factor in symptoms of chronic inflammatory conditions. Some forms of meditation have been shown to reduce both self-reported psychological distress and post stress inflammatory responses.
Dr. Hagen encourages his patients to practice yoga, in part, because, “when you get older, you’re not strong enough to prevent yourself from falling. You move more slowly, you’re not as flexible, and you don’t have as much strength. Yoga contributes toward preventing that. Yoga teaches balance, strength, and flexibility.”
Falling is a very real concern as people age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports these statistics from 2014:
· One in four American adults ages 65 and older report having fallen in the past year
· One in ten American adults ages 65 and older report sustaining a fall related injury and
· Falls account for over 50% of injury related deaths annually for this age group.
Staying Active Keeps You Young
“Once you sit down and start watching television all day long, you never get up.” To prevent this, Dr. Hagen recommends being active, going outside, doing meditation and yoga, and participating in other activities that engage the mind. This might include playing games, doing puzzles, reading or anything that requires thought. “You have to use it or you’re going to lose it.”
 Reichstadt, J., Depp, C., Palinkas, L., Jeste, D. (2007). Building Blocks of Successful Aging: A Focus study of Older Adults’ Perceived Contributors to Successful Aging. Vol 15, Issue 3, 194-201.
 Rosenkranz, M., Davidson, R., MacCoon, D., Sheridan, J., Kalin, N., Lutz, A. (2013). A comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and an active control in modulation of neurogenic inflammation. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity Vol 27, 174 – 184.
 Haddad, Y., Bergen, G., Luo, F (2018). Reducing Fall Risk in Older Adults. American Journal of Nursing Vol 118 Issue 7, 21-22.