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Agedness: A New Perspective on Aging

Agedness: A New Perspective on Aging

Aging is inevitable, but how we perceive and experience it can vary widely. Some people dread getting older, while others embrace it as a source of wisdom and maturity. Some people feel burdened by the physical and mental changes that come with aging, while others see them as opportunities for growth and adaptation. Some people isolate themselves from society as they age, while others seek to connect and contribute to their communities.

What makes the difference between these different attitudes and outcomes? According to a new concept called agedness, it is not just the chronological age that matters, but also the psychological and social age. Agedness is defined as “the degree to which one identifies with and behaves according to the norms and expectations associated with one’s age group” (Baltes & Smith, 2003). Agedness can be high or low, positive or negative, depending on how one views and relates to their own age and the aging process.

People with high agedness tend to conform to the stereotypes and roles that society assigns to their age group. They may feel pressured to act in certain ways, or to give up certain activities or interests, because of their age. They may also internalize the negative messages that society sends about aging, such as that it is a decline, a loss, or a burden. People with low agedness, on the other hand, tend to resist or challenge the norms and expectations that society imposes on their age group. They may pursue new goals, hobbies, or relationships, regardless of their age. They may also reject the negative views of aging, and instead focus on the positive aspects, such as the gains, the opportunities, or the benefits.

People with positive agedness tend to have a more optimistic and hopeful outlook on aging. They may see aging as a natural and normal part of life, rather than a problem or a threat. They may appreciate the wisdom and experience that they have gained over the years, rather than regretting the mistakes or missed opportunities. They may also feel satisfied and grateful for what they have achieved and accomplished in their lives, rather than comparing themselves to others or feeling inadequate. People with negative agedness tend to have a more pessimistic and fearful attitude toward aging. They may see aging as a deterioration and decay of their physical and mental abilities, rather than a change or a transition. They may dwell on the losses and limitations that they face as they age, rather than embracing the challenges and possibilities. They may also feel unhappy and dissatisfied with their lives, rather than finding meaning and purpose in them.

Why is agedness important? Because it can have a significant impact on one’s well-being and quality of life as they age. Research has shown that agedness can influence one’s self-esteem, mood, motivation, health, cognition, social relationships, and even longevity (Levy et al., 2002; Löckenhoff et al., 2009; Montepare & Lachman, 1989; Sargent-Cox et al., 2012). For example, people with low and positive agedness tend to have higher self-esteem, lower depression, more motivation, better health outcomes, sharper cognitive functioning, more supportive social networks, and longer life spans than people with high and negative agedness.

How can one cultivate low and positive agedness? There are several strategies that can help one to develop a more flexible and favorable view of aging. Some of these include:

  • Challenging the stereotypes and myths about aging that are prevalent in society and media.
  • Seeking out positive role models of successful aging who inspire and motivate one.
  • Engaging in lifelong learning and personal growth activities that stimulate one’s mind and body.
  • Maintaining a sense of humor and playfulness that helps one cope with stress and adversity.
  • Finding meaning and purpose in one’s life through work, hobbies, volunteering, spirituality, or other sources.
  • Building strong and diverse social relationships that provide support, companionship, and belonging.

Aging is not a fixed or predetermined fate that we have to accept passively. It is a dynamic and subjective process that we can shape actively. By adopting low and positive agedness, we can enhance our well-being and quality of life as we age.

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