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Are you an Elder or an Older?

Excerpt from Daily Cures, Wisdom for Healthy Aging by Connie Mason Michaelis

Martha Beck, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained sociologist and New York Times bestselling author, differentiates between elders (aging people who increase their capacity for wisdom and compassion over time) and olders (aging people who become more unhappy and bitter as the years go by). She says, “Our culture, with its focus on pathology and failing health, teaches us to be olders. We see and hear less about the elders, people who use advancing age as an opportunity for continued personal growth.” What does the mindset of a healthy elder look like?

Beck draws from a study by Dr. Mario Martinez, bestselling author of The MindBody Code: How to Change the Beliefs that Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success. Martinez specializes in how cultural and transcendental beliefs affect health and longevity. He has interviewed centenarians all over the world and has discovered common patterns of thought and action, which can be learned at any time in life. Here are a few hints from these healthy centenarians: Elders don’t obsess about strict health rules, such as rigid diets or exercise regimens. Instead, they put an unusual degree of focus on enjoying activities like eating and moving. In fact, their whole lives revolve around the experience of enjoyment. These centenarians engage in daily rituals that mark experiences as special, like sipping a glass of brandy every night or gathering with friends for meals. The particular ritual is not the important factor; it is the repetition of something deemed important. Elders do what they love and never retire. Their daily work often involves service to others. It never occurs to them to stop doing these things at a particular age. Elders live in the present while planning for a happy future. They plant a garden anticipating the harvest in the future. Elders were very individualistic and marched to their own drummer. Perhaps that’s why they don’t age like they’re supposed to. The moral to the story: It is up to us - we have the power to choose, elder or older!

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