A belief is something people hold to be true, for example, the belief that the earth was flat was held by many people to be true and took very many years to change. Beliefs influence our decisions and our behaviour. If people believe that everything that happens to us from the age of 40 on is due to ageing then they are unlikely to take action to feel and function well but just assume that there is a "bullet with your number on it" and be fatalistic. Beliefs shape attitudes and an attitude is a prejudice which means that you approach the same situation in the same way however it presents.
For example, if a difficulty is noted in some particular activity then people assume pessimistically that nothing can be done. It is key to have positive beliefs and positive attitudes to feel and function well.
Why are beliefs and attitudes important?Beliefs and attitudes are important because they influence our decisions and actions, and the decisions and actions of other people, many of whom hold the wrong beliefs and attitudes.
What can other people do?
Unfortunately, the prevailing beliefs and attitudes about growing older and having long-term conditions are often wrong, and when they are wrong they err on the side of pessimism, namely, the belief that nothing can be done, and the attitude is that there is no point in trying. This influences even the most positive person who may be asked, still, in 2017, What else do you expect at your age? This reflects an ageist attitude.
Fortunately, because of recent research we now know that:
- ageing is responsible for only a small proportion of the problems people face before the age of 90;
- many of the problems that people face are due to years and decades of inactivity and loss of fitness;
- disease, disability and dementia can be prevented or delayed;
- age by itself is no obstacle to treatment or fitness improvement
- many of the effects that we assume to be due to disease are in fact due to loss of fitness consequent upon inactivity following diagnosis.
- a focus on ability and not a disability.
- a focus on increasing intellectual capacity and ability as well as reducing the risk of dementia.
- recognition of the fact that many abilities can be maintained and recaptured by:
- The accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of disease.
- Regaining lost fitness and becoming fitter.
- The provision of appropriate aids and environmental adaptations.
What can I do?Try to become more positive. Here are ten principles which you should print out and stick on a mirror. Top Ten Facts of Life
- The first fact is that there is no doubt that ageing exists as a normal biological process, which starts as the phase of growth and development comes to an end, there is no stable phase between the two.
- The second fact is that are three other processes which do cause problems: disease, loss of fitness and negative attitudes, and all three are inter-related and the risk of all three can be reduced if you take action
- The third fact you need to bear in mind is that the more years you live in an unhealthy environment or with habits that increase the risk of disease, smoking or inactivity for example, the greater the likelihood that you will develop a disease but this is not a result of ageing.
- The fourth fact is that most people start to go downhill in their early twenties not because of ageing but because they get a job that requires driving or sitting at a desk, or both.
- The fifth fact of life is that a pessimistic attitude and outlook on life, influenced by the negative, and incorrect, portrayal of age by society as a period of inevitable and irreversible decline hastens the decline, because people who adopt this attitude neither attempt to keep fit, let alone get fitter, nor do they try to reduce the risk of disease.
- The sixth fact is that a growing gap called the Fitness Gap opens up between the best possible rate of decline and the actual rate of decline but that this gap can be closed at any age.
- The seventh Fact Of Life in old age is that fitness is even more important for people who have developed a long term problem like arthritis or type 2 diabetes.
- The eighth Fact of Life is that the more conditions you have, and many people have more than one condition, the more need to pay attention to fitness.
- The ninth Fact of Life is that all the steps you take to reduce the risk of disease and disability reduce the risk of the number one fear of many people - dementia.
- Finally, the tenth Fact Of Life for older people is that many of the problems that are assumed to be caused by ageing are caused by the society in which we live, one in which far too many people live in isolation caused or complicated by low income and depression.
Top Ten TipsHere are our top ten tips:
- Understand what is going on inside you
- Don't accept what most people say about ageing, be positive
- Become more active physically, get even fitter
- Become more active mentally
- Become more active socially, for example by helping other people even more
- Get more sleep
- Be cautious users of healthcare
- Eat more plants, eat less wrapped stuff
- Plan for dying well as well as living well
- Define yourself or be defined