Going to town is a good thing

I spent a recent Saturday afternoon building a multi-part Lego project with my 5-year-old grandson.

The large and colorful box containing 229 pieces promised to become a portly rhino with plastic companions; it was recommended for “ages 6 to 12.” That should have been my first clue.

Any grandparent who has engaged in this kind of tiny-piece construction will appreciate the challenge it presents, especially grandmas who are vision-compromised with less-than-great eye-hand coordination.

But my kindergarten-aged wonder prevailed. He had a “I can do it” attitude and successfully completed the task, quite independently in fact. I was impressed by his focused concentration — there was only one meltdown moment, and it was fairly minor.

When he was almost done building the complicated-looking rhino, I commented, “Jordan, you are really going to town!” He looked up at me and grinned at that statement. As he continued to build, I heard him murmur to himself, “I’m going to town.”

He later proudly told his parents and his grandfather, “I went to town!”

Yes, you did, Jordan. You were awesome.

That same evening, we watched YouTube videos in which teens and preteens demonstrated hot wheel track-building and raced small metal cars through loop-the-loop tunnels. I noted their repeated use of words like “awesome” and “epic.” Lots of smiling and “way to go, bro” statements.

Affirmations and positive self-talk are a vital part of success at any age. Research shows positive affirmations can “decrease stress and increase a feeling of well-being.” As I thought about the lessons learned from the rhino-building exercise, I recalled the self-affirming messages my daughter, Jordan’s mom, had written on the mirror of her bathroom years earlier. At almost 40 years old, she was desperately trying to become pregnant for the first time. Messages on the mirror were written in bright red lipstick and said things such as, “I am a beautiful person and I will be a wonderful mother.”

It has occurred to me that aging adults may want to revisit the power of personal affirmation and positive self-talk. Instead of “I’m getting old and forgetful,” maybe it could be “I forget some things, but I remember what’s most important.”

Even better, “I have a lifetime of being strong and capable” or “I am older, but wiser too.” My affirmation for today is “I may have vision difficulties, but I see what’s most important in life.” I will repeat it constantly. I may even write it on our bathroom mirror.

Apparently, it’s very important to write down your affirmations and assume the goal you are aspiring to has already been met. Be positively realistic. As illustration, “I am a good and caring grandmother.” Be repetitious. “I am a good and caring grandmother.” Apparently, a critical ingredient for success is repetition, along with placement of your affirming statements in as many places as you can.

As I continue to reflect on all this, I’m reminded of something I learned years ago. Research found that “a positive outlook on aging can add 7.5 years to your life.” In recognition of that, perhaps a good affirmation would be “I will live long and prosper.”

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor emeritus, Oregon State University, and the author of “How Gray is My Valley: Enlightened Observations About Being Old.” Reach her at

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