How you view 80-year-olds is a self-fulfilling prophecy that has a direct bearing on how fast you age and your vigor and vitality at various stages of life. How quickly or slowly you descend from the robust well-being of your youth to the infirmities and indignities of old age is closely tied to how you see other age groups in relation to twenty-year-olds. This may sound like a ridiculous premise, but hang with me for a minute and I'll explain.
Picture a rectangular chart or graph in your mind's eye (or draw one on a piece of paper). As with all quadrilaterals, there are four sides. The vertical line forming the left side of our rectangle is labeled from top to bottom: "Excellent Shape" -- "Good Shape" -- "Fair Shape" -- "Poor Shape" -- and -- "Flat-Liner." The bottom side, formed by a horizontal line, reads from left to right: "20-Year-Olds" -- "40-Year-Olds" -- "60-Year-Olds" -- "80-Year-Olds."
If you are like most of us, you see the typical 20-year-old as strong, energetic and vitally alive -- in other words, in excellent shape; therefore, put a dot in the upper left quadrant of the chart where you see "Excellent Shape" intersecting with "20-Year-Old."
Similarly, you most likely envision 80-year-olds to be relatively weak, slow moving and weighed down with various aches, pains and stiffness and sundry chronic maladies. Perhaps this puts them, in your view, somewhere between "Poor Shape" and "Flat-Liner." Put a dot in the lower-right quadrant in the exact place that represents your perception of what it means to be 80-years-old. Now take a ruler (mentally) and draw a line from the top dot to and through the second dot. You have created a diagonal descending line that represents your view of or beliefs about aging.
You may notice that you could have marked a dot on your chart for 60- or 70-year-olds, or even 40-year-olds (instead of the one you made for 80-year-olds), and the diagonal line would have virtually the same angle of descent. This is because all YOUR ages are represented in descending order on this declining line -- kind of like the decline we associate with aging.
You may argue that this is just the way aging works and that how you see older and younger folks has little bearing on how fast you age, but here's why it does matter!
Your beliefs about aging, represented by the descending diagonal line, greatly influence your day-to -day activities and thinking. The amount of vigorous activity (called exercise in some circles) you experience each day and its intensity; what you eat and don't eat and how much; how much sleep and rest you get; and most importantly, the thoughts you think on a regular basis and so much more are greatly influenced by your perception of what it means to age. These daily activities and patterns of thought determine, to a large extent, your quality of life in the present and your destiny as you age.
You may think that you see yourself as the same young person you were years ago, but that's just not the case. At age 20, for example, you may have partied all night long and then, first thing in the morning, driven hundreds of miles to get to a sporting event and thought nothing of it. Would you be able to do that today? Would you want to do that today? I rest my case!
The good news is that there are countless folks in their 40s, 60s and 80s who have more youthful energy and vigor than do most 20- and 30-year-olds. I've personally researched, studied, interviewed and written about some 200 of them for my books, newsletters and blogs. By reading and learning about these masters of aging, you can place the "dot" for 40-, 60- and 80-year-olds much higher on the chart, creating a diagonal line that has a much smaller angle of descent. In other words, YOUR belief (habits of thought) about aging and its natural decline will have been greatly lessened, which in turn influences you to choose daily activities and thinking that slow the aging process.
When you focus on, read about and/or associate with these masters of aging, your beliefs about aging become more uplifting. This is because your beliefs are your expectations and expectations always lead to your destiny -- YOUR self-fulfilling prophecy. You owe it to yourself to read about and focus on those who show us that we can be in Excellent Shape at any age. Do this until you really believe it and your slide towards old age will be much gentler and a more enjoyable journey.
Ed Mayhew is a speaker and the author of Fitter After 50 and Fitter for Life Visit him at: www.FitterForLife.com www.FitterAfter50.com www.YouCanGrowYounger.com(blog) and ask for your F*R*E*E* Fitter After 50 newsletter