Positive ageing

What is positive ageing?

Challenges and opportunities are unique to each period in a person's life, and older age can be a positive growth phase of life like any other. Positive ageing is not about living longer, nor about how to avoid growing old. It is about making the most of the benefits of being older.

You can be as 'old as you feel at 40' or 'young at heart at 80' - it's about attitude. Ageing positively is as much about attitude and personal views of life as it is about what one does. Even in a time of constraints, loss and change a positive attitude may help to make life more satisfying.

"People age well when they continue to contribute and participate in society, as much as they wish to, with respect and support from their families and community."

Manifesto for better longer lives (UK) Centre for Ageing Better

The evidence is clear what makes for a good later life. If, as individuals, we sustain good enough health, are not too worried about money, live in a decent home, have good relationships and a sense of purpose, then we are much more likely to have a happier later life. But far too many people miss out on these opportunities. So what changes are needed so that many more will benefit? Learn more

What do you know about growing old?

Each of us will have certain expectations about life as an older person. Our attitudes towards and knowledge of ageing can influence our desire and ability to plan ahead

Take a quick quiz to find out - answer true of false

  1. The number of older people in the community is increasing.
  2. Today families are less caring for older people than they were in the past.
  3. Most older people get depressed.
  4. All older people eventually become mentally confused.
  5. Most older people are able to look after themselves.
  6. As you age you get less intelligent.
  7. There are more older women than older men.
  8. On average, older people take more medicines than younger people.
  9. Older people do not benefit from regular exercise as much as younger people
  10. All older people are alike.
  11. As you get older you lose the desire to express and enjoy sexual love.
  12. Osteoarthritis is inevitable as joints wear out.
  13. Our arteries inevitably harden as age progresses.
  14. Creativity and original thought peak in the late forties and decline thereafter.

How did you do?

Here are the answers...

  1. TRUE. By the year 2021 21% of the New Zealand population will be aged over 60.
  2. FALSE. There are a lot of pressure on the family today but family members are still the main caregivers when older people need support.
  3. FALSE. However, depression is more common than most people think. Those who are unwell, isolated or in supervised care are at greater risk.
  4. FALSE. Even among those over 80 years old, only one in five will suffer any form of serious forgetfulness or confusion.
  5. TRUE. Around 94% of older New Zealanders live in their own accommodation and look after themselves.
  6. FALSE. Intelligence does not normally decline with age.
  7. TRUE. Women tend to outlive men in our society.
  8. TRUE. On average older people take about twice as many medicines as younger people.
  9. FALSE. Older people probably benefit more from regular physical activity than any other age group.
  10. FALSE. Every individual is different. Older people are as diverse as any other group in the community.
  11. FALSE. Older people can and do enjoy loving relationships beyond their 80's.
  12. FALSE. Joints that receive regular, sensible use maintain their efficiency.
  13. FALSE. This phenomenon is related more to lifestyle and diet throughout life than to age itself. It is like going grey. Some arteries harden more than others.
  14. FALSE. Creative people often are at their most original in their 70's and 80's. Countless vigorous intellects have declined in the mistaken belief that old age brings unavoidable mental loss.

Key factors for positive ageing

Older people discussing positive ageing in New Zealand have identified some key factors for ageing well.

Having the attitude

Some of the key attitudes older people see as being important for positive ageing:

  • optimism
  • faith or believing
  • confidence and courage
  • maintaining a sense of adventure
  • guts and determination
  • a sense of humour
  • learning to live with limitations, reinvention

Positive attitudes to ageing is often shown by the following characteristics:

  • sense of pride and determination in the face of adversity
  • an interest in sustaining social relationships
  • a tenacity of self in a changing world
  • an acceptance of 'give and take'
  • an awareness of the need to make the most of one's assets
  • a desire to live a quality life.

Being adaptable

Older age is a time of change which offers opportunity as well as challenges. Changes we may face are many and varied and can include our change of work role and status, body image, living arrangements, social networks, bereavements through the death of a spouse or partner, and changes to physical health and abilities.

The impact of the change will depend on people's attitudes about the change, coping skills and support they have and the environment in which the change takes place. Change is not necessarily a negative time, and can be a time of challenge and growth.

Attitudes Towards Ageing report

New Zealand's first all-age research into our attitudes towards ageing reveal respect for seniors but different views on what is young and old. To view the report go to superseniors.

Positive Ageing Strategy

The 2014 Report on the Positive Ageing Strategy provides an update on Progress towards the 10 goals within the Positive Ageing Strategy.

The 10 goals are:

  1. Income - secure and adequate income for older people.
  2. Health -equitable, timely, affordable and accessible health services for older people
  3. Housing -affordable and appropriate housing options for older people
  4. Transport -affordable and accessible transport options for older people
  5. Ageing in the Community - older people feel safe and secure and can age in the community
  6. Cultural Diversity -a range of culturally appropriate services allows choices for older people
  7. Rural Services -older people living in rural communities are not disadvantaged when accessing services
  8. Positive Attitudes -people of all ages have positive attitudes to ageing and older people
  9. Employment Opportunities -elimination of ageism and the promotion of flexible work options
  10. Opportunities for Personal Growth and Participation -increasing opportunities for personal growth and community participation

'Opportunities of ageing' from the American Association of Retired Persons

Here's a great little article from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) around the opportunities (particularly economic) of the growing ageing population. It's from an American perspective, but is equally as valid to the New Zealand population.

"I have to admit I am frustrated when the rising wave of population ageing throughout the world is compared-disparagingly-to a tsunami. Rather than stoke fear, policymakers should consider a profound difference between these two kinds of waves.

Unlike a tsunami, global ageing can be predicted years in advance. And while it is inevitable, global ageing is also an opportunity. Older people have inherent strengths, far greater than commonly recognised, and an ageing population can be a major asset. With fresh thinking and innovative strategies, countries around the world can reap an array of social and economic benefits from this demographic force"... keep reading

Recipes for making the most of life as you age

Age Concern New Zealand has just published Ageing is Living - Recipes for life. It gives you fourteen "ingredients" to play around with - things like optimism, love, generosity, fun - and dignity. It then provides a few tips for how to add each ingredient to your recipe for life.

The idea is to encourage people to recognise and use the life skills and resources they already have, (these could be spiritual, intellectual, cultural or social) and to keep developing new ones.
Download the resource: Recipes for making the most of life as you age.pdf

Revera Report on Ageism: Independence and choice as we age

The latest Revera Report on Ageism: Independence and Choice As We Age shows that ageism is still the most tolerated form of social prejudice in Canada compared to racism and sexism. With 1 in 4 people admitting they have treated someone differently because of their age, many well-intentioned Canadians are, in fact, depriving older people of the independence and choice that are crucial to ageing well. Visit the website to view the video, infographic and news release.

Find your nearest Age Concern