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The benefits of aging: More self-love, wisdom and overall satisfaction with life

Aging gracefully

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(NaturalNews) Aging is one of the most dreaded life experiences in western culture; however, it doesn't have to be. In her book Longevity: The Science of Staying Young, Kathy Keeton educates readers on the ups and downs of aging. The following is an excerpt from her book.

"Studies among people sixty-five and older have revealed that more than 85 percent suffered little or no memory loss. And a number of researchers have shown that, in the words of Dr. John W. Rowe, director of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Successful Aging, 'perhaps the most important type of change that occurs with aging is no change at all.'

"If our brains can remain active, vigorous, and capable, so, apparently, can our spirits," says Keeton.

Keeping your spirit alive as you age

"While for some of us, especially those with general insecurities, old age can mean increased anxiety and depression, nationwide surveys by the Institute for Social Research show that a great many older people seem more carefree than younger adults, with fewer and less bothersome problems.

"According to University of Illinois psychologist Ed Diener, these surveys show 'a slow rise in satisfaction with age...young persons appear to experience higher levels of joy but older persons tend to judge their lives in more positive ways.'

"When stressful situations do arise, an inevitable feature of life at any age, the epic Baltimore Longitudinal Study, which was started in 1958, found that older people adapted to them as well as, if not better than, younger people.

"Much of this emotional balance and well-being is no doubt due to the development of a kinder and more generous self-image with advancing years. 'As persons age,' says sociologist Walter R. Gove of Vanderbilt University, 'their self-concepts...contain more positive attributes, fewer negative attributes, and become better integrated.'"

Older people have better self-images and are less judgmental about themselves

"In other words, we tend to judge ourselves less harshly, like ourselves better, and see our flaws as a good deal less tragic than they seemed in painful youth. 'In middle age,' as the writer Pete Hamill once put it, 'you tend to forgive yourself.'

"All in all, says University of Michigan psychologist Marion Perlmutter, 'I think we get enough positive changes with age, especially wisdom, that the psychological outlook can actually be better than in middle age.'

"On the bad news side are certain detrimental changes in the lungs, they don't expand as well, so that a deep breath isn't as deep in old age as it was in youth. The kidneys' ability to filter waste out of the bloodstream decreases by as much as 50 percent between the ages of thirty and eighty.

"The bladder's capacity declines from two cups at age thirty to one cupful at seventy, making the need to urinate more frequent and urgent. The filtering power of the liver also seems to decline, so that alcohol and drugs remain in the body longer.

"Less serious but possibly more annoying are the little things that show up not so much in the doctor's office as in the bathroom mirror. For men, hair appears in unwanted places, the ears, nose, and back, for example, and it either grays or disappears from the places they want it most.

"A woman's hair tends to thin and to lose some of its youthful sheen. Even the fingernails grow more slowly (0.6 millimeter a week at seventy, compared to 0.94 a week at twenty), which means less frequent need for grooming but more unsightliness because they're exposed to weathering for longer periods of time."

With aging comes fewer allergies and reduced sweating

"But like everything else we've talked about so far, there are compensations. For example, people become somewhat less sensitive to pain as they get older. They sweat less (sweat glands tend to dry up), sneeze less (fewer allergic reactions as the immune system slows down), and have fewer nightmares (no one knows why).

"Taste sensitivity remains relatively constant, while the skin is more resistant to insults from harsh chemicals and other irritants. Even the course of the day often improves for older people: since they need about two hours less sleep, the day is two hours longer, giving them extra time to exercise, socialize with friends and family, or even use their lives creatively."

Keeton says "[T]hat while in many ways aging does mean slowdown and decline, in other and in some cases equally important ways, getting older actually does mean getting better. And the way to start this battle against aging is to have an optimistic and enthusiastic attitude.

"If we know that the second half of our lives can be a time of active good health, contentment, and genuine achievement, then the battle is already partially won."

For more on the aging process, be sure to check out Keeton's book in full here.



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