Successful aging and living with adversity
Nitin K Sethi, MD
Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, Department of Neurology, NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center, New York, NY (U.S.A.)
Address for Correspondence:
NK Sethi, MD
Comprehensive Epilepsy Center
Department of Neurology
NYP-Weill Cornell Medical Center
525 East 68th Street, York Avenue
New York, NY 10021
I read a very fascinating article recently in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry about successful aging in adversity. We all want to age successfully . Successful aging though is just not about escaping illness as the authors (Livingston et.al) point out but also of having a positive attitude towards one’s life despite poor health. In their study they interviewed patients with dementia to find out how they view their aging. To my pleasant surprise they found that many people with dementia feel that they are aging successfully and rate their quality of life as good. This may be against what their caregivers feel. I should add these were people with mild to moderate and not severe dementia.
So how can we age successfully both in health and disease? Well if you are healthy, good then the odds are with you. Your quality of life is good, you have no physical or mental impairments due to disease and if you maintain a positive attitude and avoid depression and anxiety successful aging can be readily achieved. Exercise regulary, keep your mind occupied (read books, watch television, read the newspaper), maintain good and healthy social interactions (surround yourself with family and friends, date if you are single) and hey you are on your way to aging successfully.
But what if you are sick? Is successful aging possible in adversity. YES as the study points out. It is very much so. What is needed is good mental health and social relationships. Have a positive frame of mind. The study points out that an individual’s underlying resilience plays a big role in successful aging and even though the disease may progress as time goes by, the individual shall still continue to feel he is aging well. Again the importance of mental health is stressed. Avoiding depression and anxiety is the key to successful aging in the face of adversity. The importance of social relationships and support of family and friends cannot be stressed more.
Well there you have it, maybe a small piece to the puzzle of successful aging and at least to some of us in the face of adversity