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Characteristics of Positive Aging

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Everyone is aging, but do you ever wonder why some people seem to age more successfully than others? We all know of some older adults out there that just seem to be more "spry." But this is not always in a physical sense. They might be mentally sharp and just overall vivacious! What is their secret? Well you can narrow down the research to six characteristics that promote positive aging: maintain a positive or optimistic attitude; be social; have purpose; eat well; be active; and, challenge yourself intellectually. Let's focus on the first three in this article.

Extensive research has shown that optimism improves well-being, physical health and is associated with greater longevity. As the aging process will present challenges, it is important to meet those challenges with a positive outlook. Remember, we cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react! You can do a few things to improve your outlook:

  • Be around positive people and those that support you
  • Laugh and surround yourself with things that help relieve stress
  • Practice positive self-talk – and turn negative statements and thoughts into positive ones
  • Try not to worry about the things you have no control over
  • Develop a blessing or positive affirmation list

Did you know that loneliness is a risk factor for early death and functional decline in adults over the age of 60? Staying socially active can do many things like reduce the risk of depression and stress, lower blood pressure, improve physical fitness, improve cognitive function and slow the progression of declining health. How are your social connections? Staying actively engaged in a variety of interesting activities and relationships is a key to social wellness. Some ways to stay socially connected include:

  • Get more actively involved in a cause or interest that is meaningful to you
  • Pursue a passion
  • Put some fun into your life by doing something you enjoy each day
  • Engage in a community of support – this might be church, community group or club

People who live with purpose look beyond themselves and find true joy in giving to others. Purpose brings us joy and a true sense of fulfillment. Purpose in someone's life can enhance physical and psychological health; promote resilience, creativity and productivity; and, combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. Purpose is also uplifting and motivating! If you are looking to develop purpose and to find interesting ways to become more involved in your community:

  • Reflect on your job (or former job) for ideas about what you might offer others
  • Think of a skill you can teach and volunteer your time to teaching others
  • If you like children – you could work as a mentor or tutor
  • If you appreciate nature and conservation – you could work at a nature center or state park
  • If you like to cook – you could volunteer to help prepare meals for low-income families or help at a food pantry
  • Organize a community wide initiative like a farmer's market, or recycling program


Optimism, socialization and purpose are just a few of the characteristics proven to improve quality of life. Find out more in the next article about what research says we need for optimal aging!