December 15, 2009

USA: Maybe aging isn't so bad

. MEDFORD, Oregon / Mail Tribune /Lifestyle / December 15, 2009 Nearly half of older Americans say life turned out better than expected "Time for what matters?" That's the headline of a brief article in a recent issue of AARP magazine . I added the question mark. The focus is on those things Americans who are 65-plus enjoy about getting older. The originating source was a Pew Social and Demographic Trends Report titled "Growing Old in America". I was pleased to see that 45 percent of the surveyed respondents, specifically those who were 75 and beyond, felt life had turned out better than expected. As aging adults, they reported enjoying opportunities to have more time with family, more time for hobbies and interests, travel and volunteer work. They also reported less stress in their later years. I'm thinking the people who responded in this way also had financial security — and that always makes life easier. But overall, it was encouraging information to those of us who are getting older every day. Illustration source click here The Pew report says "getting old isn't nearly as bad as people think it will be." There is a "sizable gap between expectations that young and middle-aged adults have about old age and actual experiences reported by older adults themselves." Initially, this information was something I read quickly. The AARP summary was interesting enough for me to tear it out of the magazine. As frequently happens, I then misplaced the torn-out pages "¦ but later I found them — and, you know, I'm still interested. I think what intrigues me most is the phrase, "Older Americans are enjoying their later years, with a nod to God." I thought I would elaborate on that a little — tis the season. Apparently the older we get, the more we value religion. Right now some of you are saying "hallelujah" and others are offering up a "pshaw." Maybe you are somewhere in between with your reaction to this finding. It's a highly personal issue. But the Pew Reports are credible, and this one says "faith grows with age." There are other published materials which could be considered relevant to this topic. Of particular interest was a story I read about a 100-year-old gentleman (www.americanprofile.com) who grows daylilies. This centenarian apparently "works his fields every day." Working centenarians "show us what's possible," says Lynn Peters Adler, founder of the National Centenarian Awareness Project. The 100-year-old worker, Fred Sheill, is featured on her Web site www.adlercentenarians.org, one of many impressive 100+ elders profiled, a new one every month. Adler, who is my age (63+), seems to have a unique appreciation for aging well and a special affection for those in their 10th decade. (You go girl!) Adler reportedly sees common traits among the hundreds of centenarians she's interviewed. These traits include a positive attitude, what she calls "personal courage" and the readiness to enjoy "the roller coaster of life." Oh, and this one too, which you are probably expecting: happily aging adults have "a strong religious or spiritual belief." Time for what matters? Tis the season. [rc] Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University. E-mail: s.johnson@oregonstate.edu Copyright 2009 Southern Oregon Media Group