How do you define successful aging?

A column for seniors of the Snoqualmie Valley.

  • Friday, October 12, 2018 8:30am
  • Life

How do you feel about aging? My dad always said it beats the alternative.

As director of the Senior Center, I read a lot about successful aging. It means different things to different people. On average, people report that it is important to keep learning, contributing and being involved in people’s lives. People want to live independently and not be a burden on their families. They want to stay healthy.

Sometimes we have to be flexible about our definition of successful aging.

A story I read in the magazine “Third Act” illustrates this. A doctor had a patient that had serious health conditions including kidney damage. The patient told the doctor, “Don’t put me on that kidney machine. I couldn’t stand that.” Then his life changed. He fell in love and he had a new sense of purpose. So when the time came that his kidneys failed and he needed dialysis, he changed his mind. What was once an unacceptable way to live became doable because he reset his priorities. He continued to live happily despite the bother of dialysis.

The Sno-Valley Senior Center got a letter from a woman whose dad passed away a year ago. He always swore he’d never come live with her, but eventually it seemed like the best option. He loved it. He loved the activity of a family around him and coming to the Senior Center for Wii bowling and lunch. His daughter wrote, “You made his life better — much better — and mine too.”

Life doesn’t always go the way we want, but a grateful open heart can still make a good life and successful aging.

Robert Emmons said, “Gratitude is the affirmation that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received… an acknowledgement that other people give us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve goodness in our lives.”

Grateful people tend to be more socially connected, better able to handle stress, have lower levels of depression, better sleep quality, and stronger biomarkers such as higher rates of good cholesterol. If a pill offered all those things, you would think it was a scam.

Look around. What are you grateful for? A lovely sunset, the taste of chocolate, a good book, the sound of the wind in the leaves… the simple things in life can give great joy. So start looking for things to be grateful for and watch your health and attitude improve no matter your circumstances.

Lisa Yeager is the director of Sno-Valley Senior Center.