Thrive, what a perfect word to describe a positive way of aging that we can strive for.
“Through wise eyes: Thriving elder women’s perspectives on thriving in elder adulthood” is an article that grabbed my attention this past weekend.
Its author is Beverly Hardcastle Stanford, a professor emerita of Human Development. She starts by saying that “the rising wave of elders alive today promise(s) significant changes in how we view and live out our old age.” She summarizes various studies and notes the need for society to look at old age as a period of creativity and productivity, a time when people have more time (sans homework, career work, driving kids around, etc.) to use their accumulated knowledge and wisdom to mentor and care for others.
What else is involved in thriving? Feeling well, even if you’re not. At first I thought, what? But, she explains that subjective feelings of wellbeing are more important than objective ones. Your doctor might tell you that you have this or that disorder, but if you believe that despite all that, life is great, then you are more likely to thrive. “I’m happy to be as active as I am,” said one study participant, for example.
A group of elders was asked to offer advice to the next generation. I’m going to include the whole list of themes because I think we can discuss them in more detail in future blog posts. The elders referred to:
(a) vital involvement and service; (b) desire to continue
learning, (c) appreciation of family, health, home, and financial
security, (d) valuing honesty and responsibility, (e) a positive attitude,
and (f) a reliance on faith.
(I highlighted item b because that theme seems to come up often. Lifelong learning, my personal passion. I know that’ll be an easy one for me to focus on as I grow older.)
The author asked the study participants why they were thriving, some said that
“thriving needs to be intentionally sought“. I thought this was powerful and amazing advice! You have to make a conscious decision to thrive, to choose it when other options are available (being miserable, giving up, withdrawing, refusing to learn new things, etc.). ” It’s very easy to get into a slump and just sit around the house
and watch television,” said one woman, who “pushes herself” to volunteer and go to museums and movies.
Were the women in the study just lucky to have had easy lives, making it easy to be so positive? No. The author interviewed them in detail to learn that most of them had experienced various types of trauma and loss throughout their lives. The key point was their intentionality to thrive. Thriving in older age doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it.
There’s so much in this article to discuss further, so let’s keep referring back to it! For now, tell me about what intentions YOU have to thrive as you get older? Which of the themes (a) to (f) above seem to resonate most strongly with you? Post your comments below!
(The English teacher in me requires I give the full citation for this article:
Stanford, B. H. (2006). Through wise eyes: Thriving elder women’s perspectives on thriving in elder adulthood. Educational Gerontology, 32(10), 881-905. doi:10.1080/03601270600846709)