Jump over the stereotypes

Jump over the stereotypes

Later life has great potential and this book helps put you on the path.

The Ten Steps Of Positive Ageing

The pandemic may have reinforced the vulnerability of the aged. But old age is more than loneliness, misery and ailments. It is another phase of life that can be managed to our satisfaction with some guidance and self-will though the role of old people in society remains ill-defined. The stereotypes of ageing promoted by the cosmetics industry — that old age is distasteful and must be prevented at any cost — hides the reality.

Guy Robertson, psychologist and founding director of Positive Ageing Associates, states in his new book that later life has great potential with a lot of opportunities for learning and being
creative. In The Ten Steps of Positive Ageing: A handbook for Personal Change in Later Life, he says we can make the best of this time if we approach it with a positive mental frame.

Departing from common concerns, the book explores the psychological and emotional aspects of ageing. One needs to prepare to age.

“Just as we had to learn to grow up, so we have to learn to grow old,” he says. The book challenges the negative portrayals of ageing.

Robertson contends that the ‘inner world’ of ageing has not received the attention it deserves, although internal thoughts and feelings shape our wellbeing in later life. What is on offer is a
specially-designed workbook, based on abundant research evidence, to help you explore this world. It is meant to enable you to develop your own vision of later life.

This book debunks some myths about ageing and offers ten steps that one can take to improve the prospect of living a happy and satisfying life in old age. These personal development tools can help us change our perspective to boost emotional and psychological resilience in later life.

Face the negatives

Ten Steps is a guide to prepare for the challenges of ageing and how to make the best use of old age. The issues confronting the old are complex. Later life can be tough and there will always be challenges for us to address. However, we can take greater control of ageing with some well-thought preparations.

Beliefs, values and attitudes condition positive ageing, according to the book. Those who do not yield to challenges fall by the wayside. As they say: “Ageing is inevitable but getting old is optional.” As loss is a prominent feature of ageing, there is a need to face the negatives head on. While citing the need for developing a positive attitude, Robertson says age denial is not a solution. Acceptance of the ageing process and our mortality is key to our wellbeing, he argues.

Positive ageing begins with a positive approach to dying. The book begins by looking at the different notions of ageing and how it affects our lives. Robertson starts the approach to positive ageing by looking at death, a topic that many dread to confront. There is a need to face up to death anxiety and address it head on. The finality of death can prompt us to make the most of the time that we have by being pro-active, argues the author.

Reality check

The next step is a reality check on all the negative ideas and images about ageing so that we can test whether we are actually getting a balanced view of its positive as well as negative aspects. Step 3 explores how negative stereotypes and ageist attitudes can cause real harm as we age. Next step considers the significance of our relationships with other people in helping us to age positively. Robertson advocates a frank life review as a therapeutic tool as we grow older. Choosing a positive perspective on our past is important for our wellbeing. For deriving real benefits from reviewing our lives, he favours frank, expressive writing on traumatic or unresolved issues.

Other chapters are devoted to what gives us meaning and a sense of purpose in our lives, developing a vision for how we want our lives to be and what we want to achieve. Our attitude to growing old can influence our physical and mental wellbeing, Robertson says, citing Becca Levy’s research that found that “people who have more positive attitudes about ageing live on average 7.5 years longer than those who feel more negative about ageing....”

The volume provides a wealth of information on psychological research. Practical personal development exercises and questionnaires in many chapters are handy as it can equip the reader to engage in a programme of self-evaluation. However, based on extensive research in the UK, which has a wide social security net and National Health Service (NHS), the book has limited relevance to most Indians whose primary concern is to have two square meals a day.

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