Healthy Aging: Attitude is an option

“Greetings!” Lately, I have begun correspondence and even some person-to-person encounters with that word.

I am not entirely sure why I do that, other than it’s a friendly opener. I must believe it gets what I intend to say off to a positive start.

As illustration, “Greetings. The Amazon Echo Show device I ordered for my husband for his birthday in November of last year is making a staticky, clicking sound. How do I remedy that?” That got me an immediate connection with a fresh-voiced individual who told me to send the product back. I had purchased it seven months earlier, and they would still replace it? Just like that? Wow. Very impressive.

The mailing label that would allow me to initiate the replacement was supposed to be promptly sent in a follow-up email. That was yesterday. Or was it the day before? No emailed return label yet, but I’m staying optimistic.

And that’s what this column is about — optimism. No, that doesn’t quite capture it. As I drill down into my thinking, today I seem inclined to write about “attitude.”

In every situation that comes our way in this life, we have options in how we deal with circumstances presented or information received. Delight and even euphoria (“They are going to replace a faulty product with something brand new!”) or less than good news (“Well, they said they were, but they haven’t!”) with calm acceptance.

As we age, we are greeted with a myriad of things to complain about. Achy knees, faulty vision, doctors who don’t listen to pains that cannot be explained. When I am in the company of my age peers and I join in a discussion of maladies held in common, I try to think of it as “an organ recital.” Mentally visualizing that descriptive phrase makes me smile to myself and sometimes even laugh — much the better attitude overall. Some experts suggest that attitude is the true measurement of aging well.

Attitude can be explained as “a complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values and dispositions to act in certain ways.” What we think and talk about as we age is important — our attitudes about our own aging define us. Sometimes we get reactively stuck on a certain less-than-positive view of self and situation. Let’s try not to do that as much. I will if you will.

For starters, we need to talk to each other — “get the sad out” — or articulate symptoms to friends and family in a way that helps us understand them better ourselves and feel supported by someone who, perhaps, has the same issues and new ideas about remedy. Lightening the load held by another person through simple, attentive listening — or raising the conversational bar with a little laughter — is an important aspect of a life well lived. Isn’t that what we all strive for — a life well lived?

I paraphrase on the quote by the author Louise Hays, “Each day is special and precious, for you shall live it only once.”

“Ping.” That’s the sound of my delayed mailing label greeting me.

I think this will be a good day. Tomorrow will be too.

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

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