First aging plan step: Check your attitude - Word&Way

First aging plan step: Check your attitude

Your attitudes are the mother of all your actions. Before anything moves toward action, it must first be an attitude. What your attitudes are about aging will become clearly reflected in your life as you mature. — Richard P. Johnson, The 12 Keys to Spiritual Vitality

Numerous research studies have found that a person's attitude about aging greatly influences how he or she ages. Those with a negative attitude about growing old tend to have a poor old-age experience. People with a positive aging attitude tend to live a long, happy and satisfying old age.

Based on these research findings, developing a comprehensive aging plan must begin with an honest evaluation of one's own attitude about getting older. Such an evaluation will include questions such as:

— Am I afraid of getting old?

— Do I believe that as I age my life will be less vibrant and meaningful?

— Do I believe getting older will greatly limit my lifestyle?

— Do I get depressed when I think of being an old man/lady?

Frank Fain

Fank Fain

Our society is a youth-oriented culture and tends to hold a very negative attitude about old people and aging. As a result, collectively we try to deny, hide or stop the aging process. This is why millions of dollars are spent each year on anti-aging chemicals, hair dye or transplants, fitness club memberships and even sports cars. We all have been influenced by our culture's attitude that "being young is good, being old is bad."

Richard Johnson wrote, "To the degree to which you adopt this worldly view of aging is the degree to which you will age poorly."

If we hold on to our society's myth that aging leads to a less vibrant and meaningful life and we fear aging, we will be unable to accept this inevitable change and will become depressed when it occurs. To age well, we must first reject society's ageism prejudice and develop a positive attitude about our aging.

In Romans 12:2, Paul urges us not to be "conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." This imperative speaks directly to our attitude about aging.

As we begin writing our aging plan, we need to adopt a biblical attitude about old age and develop a God-attitude on aging.

In Genesis 6:3, Isaiah 65:20 and John 10:10 we get the impression God's plan is for us to live a long and abundant life. Leviticus 19:32 and 1 Timothy 5:1 teaches us that older people are to be honored and respected. Proverbs 16:31 tells us that being old is a blessing from God and a sign of righteous living.

Throughout the Scripture, God called older people to minister and lead. Study how old Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, John the Baptist's parents, Simeon, Anna and Paul were when God called them into service. From such a study, you will see that God uses older adults to make positive contributions to society and his kingdom.

According to the aged Paul in 2 Corinthians 4, even though our body weakens in old age, God renews our inward person each and every day.

Paul would agree with the statement: "Old age only withers the outside of a person." The internal person can continue to grow throughout this earthly life.

Now, I'm not saying we need to develop an unrealistic upbeat attitude about being old. I recognize the many challenges of getting older.

What I am saying is we need to reject society's ageism prejudice if we expect to age well. The first step to aging well is to learn to celebrate and embrace aging as a process of growth and discovery.

Our aging attitude should be one that views aging as a gift from God, an opportunity for personal growth, and a rich and rewarding journey. This kind of attitude adjustment is the first step in developing a good aging plan.

Frank Fain is director of senior adult ministries and educational services at The Baptist Home.