Are you aging unnecessarily? Answer these questions and find out:
Do you see gray hair as loss of youth, as opposed to loss of pigment?
Do you describe how you feel as young or old, rather than energetic or tired?
Do you see an age spot on your hand, where you once saw a freckle?
If you answered yes, take warning: You are aging unnecessarily. The culprit here isn’t passing years. It is thoughts that arise from deeply engrained concepts of age and aging.
Our age concept is a set of beliefs and expectations that dictate our thoughts and actions. In a sense, we run an age program the way computers run a software program. More than half of what we experience as aging is due to this concept. Let me explain the problem, then the solution.
I once heard a 60-year-old man describe his life as “gradual deterioration.” That was two decades ago. For 20 years, he has run a gradual deterioration program. That program is his concept of age.
Our concepts determine what we think and do and even what we see and feel. To understand how this works, consider another concept.
I need to lose weight is the concept dominant in anorexia. This concept defines reality for the anorexic person. Where others see thin and emaciated, she sees a body that needs to lose weight. The concept (not reality) is in charge here. In the same way, age has us under its spell.
The age concept sets us up for gradual deterioration. It determines our thoughts and actions and even what we see in the mirror; e.g., aging in silver hair, age spots in freckles.
The concept exerts control unknowingly and automatically, deciding even sensations we feel. Aches and pains taken in stride at 18 prompt us now to think: “Just as I thought, old age.” Doctors tell us no one dies of old age. Our concept, however, dictates what’s real, and we see otherwise.
Some dentists suggest duller, yellow teeth for elderly denture patients. Under the spell of the concept, we accept the teeth. The aging program tells us what to do. It tells us, “Act your age,” and we obey — with grave consequences.
Not long ago, a finding that people in their 90s can build muscle made front-page news. Why did the finding surprise us? Because it violates our concept of aging, which includes expectations of irreversible loss in muscle mass, bone density, lung capacity, balance, and flexibility. Obedient to the concept, we act our age, staying sedentary, deteriorating according to plan.
Inactivity precipitates decline, but no matter how limiting and self-destructive, we conform and age to the letter. We succumb more to the concept than to age itself, even though the concept is mistaken.
Page 2 of 2 - Next week, the second part of this article tells how to change our attitudes. If you need help with the physical changes in your live, call us at the Butler County Department on Aging at 800-279-3655.
In conjunction with the Butler County Health Department, we are offering a Kansans Optimizing Health Program. This is a series of six classes for persons with any chronic (ongoing) health issue. Participants will learn to manage their health issues in various ways, including how to talk with your physicians. For more information, or to enroll, call Pat at 800-279-3655. Classes will be held in El Dorado, starting in August.