Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Positive Aging

Book: Seven Strategies for Positive Aging (Norton Professional Books (Paperback))
Author: Robert D Hill
Published: NY: WW Norton & Company, 2008 (163pp)

As the year draws to a close, like many, I feel a year older. Hopefully I am a year wiser too. One of the most talked about challenges among many leaders is an aging population. While political leaders worry about the impact of health costs among elderly, not many are acutely aware of the emotional challenges that can demoralize the aging. This is where Robert Hill's contribution gives society a much needed jab of encouragement for both young and old. For the young, one can learn to prepare for the impending old age. For the elderly, one can learn to live meaningfully with adequate reflection and positive attitude. Hill powerfully brings across seven strategies to enable 'positive aging.' Hill describes positive aging as taking:

"control of our own late life experience by discovering meaning in growing old that transcends the deteriorative processes of aging." (ix)

Briefly, the seven strategies of positive aging are:

  1. "You Can Find Meaning in Old Age"
    Meaning can still be found despite one's ailing and frail health. Using the SOC paradigm (selecting positives; Optimize strengths; Compensate weaknesses), one can cultivate flexibility and make affirmative decisions in life.
  2. "You're Never Too Old to Learn"
    Remaining intellectually engaged is a critical part of staying positive about life. When one stops learning, one essentially stops living well.
  3. "You Can Use the Past to Cultivate Wisdom"
    Sometimes old people mourn the loss of their physical achievements and their deteriorating degree of effectiveness, efficiency and effort. Hill suggests a process of re-orientating one's perspective toward positive relationships, learning from the past, be optimistic about the future.
  4. "You Can Strengthen Life-Span Relationships"
    Loss and Loneliness hits the aged very hard. At an old age, one senses an increasing loss of peers which leads to loneliness. Hill suggests one learns to accept death as a part of life to be embraced rather than rejected. To top it off, learn to survive and thrive in terms of making affirmative choices.
  5. "By Giving and Receiving Help, You Promote Growth"
    Learn to graciously help others as well as be helped. This calls for a life that seeks to equip oneself toward caregiving and helping others. This attitude of desiring to help others in return promotes growth even in the twilight years.
  6. "You Can Forgive Yourself and Others"
    Here, Hill draws from Christian principles about forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32) to learn to be kind and forgiving toward one another. Sometimes, people tend to see forgiveness as something done TO others, forgetting that there is also a need to forgive our own selves.
  7. "You can Possess a Grateful Attitude"
    This is the second strategy that draws directly from biblical teachings. Being grateful for life is one of the most positive traits in effective living.
My Comments
Each strategy addresses a specific challenge to overcome. Hill masterfully identifies the 4Ds of negative aging: Dysfunction, Disability, Dependency and Death. While medical science can only slow down and not prevent these from occurring, one can still learn to cope positively. Hill presents each strategy with real life examples to illustrate the point. Without going through extensive scientific research, Hill makes this book a very readable guide for all to learn from and apply. Each strategy comes with easy to follow pointers, as well as an encouragement to the reader to remain positive about life. Though it is not a Christian book, it contains lots of biblical wisdom. Seven Strategies is a positive read that should energized aged people to live meaningfully. These could very well be the golden years of one's life, where the best is yet to be.

All of these skills should be used to complement one another. The best way to practice this book is for the aged to practice these principles as a community.


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