There’s a terrific song, made famous by Frank Sinatra “It Was a Very Good Year” that totally celebrates the life we live and the blessings we have from it for all stages of life!:
Each of us on this earth has a commonality. Starting with our miraculous births through each stage of life (if we are blessed enough to make it). Beginning with infancy, then toddlerhood (shameless cute pics of my grand-girls with our daughter):
to the final stage of Senior adult (65 years or older in America) (this is my really “hip” Mother-in-law in her new digs):
noting that every single stage has it’s challenges.
But out of all those stages of life, which one is celebrated the least and has the most stigmas associated with it in our American culture?
Could it be…… the Senior years??
Truly our American culture doesn’t always wholeheartedly celebrate our final stage, the Senior years, and some of our Seniors succumb to this negative culture belief to their detriment. Note this is not true of every culture in the world, many cultures celebrate their quinquagenarians (50s) through the centenarians (100s)! Below is a pic of Seniors in Sardinia, Italy (of the Blue Zones fame), where centenarians abound and the “seasoned” ages are celebrated for their wisdom!
Btw, what do you personally think about those Senior years?
This question applies to EVERYONE for even if you aren’t living those years right now, you then would be considered a “Senior in Training” – 😂!!
Haven’t really thought about it??
Well take this quiz, it might give you a better understanding about where your thoughts are on this subject:
SENIOR ATTITUDE QUIZ
1. When you think about “old people” which pictures predominantly come to mind?
If you picked (A) you would be in line with the predominant picture of aging in our American culture, along with words like isolation, sadness and loss of function.
If you picked (B) you have a more positive attitude about the present life you’re living or intend to live when you do get older, even faced with definite challenges.
2.“Senior Moments” is a scientific term used to describe the eventual loss of memory by the majority of Seniors across the globe.
If you picked (B), right on! Good job! If you selected (A) as many do, you are the target of this discussion! There is no scientific “Senior Moment” term or for that matter any loss of memory term having specifically to do with Seniors. You know already that memory lapses occur at any age!!
The term “Senior Moment” just happened be a lexicon that caught fire for general use in 1997 from a seasoned citizen that forgot his tennis match score, but this was later quoted in the press, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and it’s stuck to this day!
3.Episodic Memory, A/K/A recalling a certain event at a certain time and place (see below for details) that decreases with age is irreversible.
If you picked (B), you would be right! This type of memory loss can be aided with interventions.
First let’s get schooled on the types of memories we all have:
I.Memories that decrease and increase with age:
A.Increases with age- Semantic Memory-this would be the “Big Picture” memory that relies on long-term memory to conceptualize or bring meaning to facts, A/K/A the “wise old owl” memory!
B.Increases with age-Pattern Recognition Memory-as an example, having a Senior radiologist read your x-rays who has the potential to be more accurate, and perhaps more likely to recall that rare “zebra” of a diagnosis, than a younger colleague.
C.Stays the same with age-Procedural Memory– everyday procedures like turning on the oven and setting the timer.
D.Decreases with age-Episodic Memory– the memory of recalling a specific experience at a specific time and place This type of memory CAN improve with interventions.
What type of interventions? Glad you asked!
Enter Dr. Becca Levy, PhD with her new book “Breaking the Age Code- How Your Belief About Aging Determine How Long & Well You Live” Dr. Levy did extensive research on just this subject regarding the psychology of Senior aging viewpoints. She gives scientifically based evidence that your attitude about aging in your Senior years CAN make an impact on the quality of your life (including your memory) and possibly even the number of years you have on this earth! You see, our brain has this amazing characteristic of neuroplasticity, constantly adapting to any new changes or experiences. Dr. Levy goes on:
“In short, what causes certain forms of memory to decline isn’t necessarily aging itself, but rather the way we approach and think about aging-the way the culture tells us, and the way we tell ourselves how to grow old”.
II. Studies That Support Positive Age Beliefs Are Good For Your Health!–
A.Americans Need Some Age Attitude Adjustments!– Dr. Levy first equated negative age beliefs with negative memory scores, comparing Seniors in Mainland China, Deaf Elder community Seniors and American Seniors. Note that in Mainland China and the Deaf Elder communities, golden agers are celebrated!
Dr. Levy found that “Of the older participants, the American group expressed the most negative age beliefs and performed worse on all four memory tasks. The Chinese elders, the group with the most positive age beliefs, performed best across the board.” Actually, in China, the older AND younger participants perform the same on memory tests! The elderly hearing Americans were also outperformed by the elderly deaf Americans.
B.Your Attitude About Aging in Your Younger Years Matters!– The same correlation of negative age beliefs and lower memory scores held true with the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging (BLSA). This study commenced in 1958. FYI, BLSA is the world’s longest study on aging! Here a bevy of tests and questionnaires were interpreted over a 38 year period to interpret age beliefs. The actual test was 10 geometric-figure cards, each presented for 10 seconds, then removed. Dr. Levy’s findings were remarkable:
“I matched their age beliefs from the start of the study to their memory scores over the next thirty-eight years and discovered that people who held positive age beliefs from the outset went on to experience 30% better memory scores in old age than their peers with negative age beliefs.”
Ok, you might say, that’s all well and good about Seniors’ memories being impacted by positive age beliefs, but is that all?
C.Your mindset about aging CAN affects your overall health (and that’s not just memory)!– Positive age beliefs also have an association with decreased stress, lower risk of dementia, a 7.5 year boost in longevity and decreased risk for a cardiovascular event after the age of 60 years old.
Below are the graph details, courtesy of “Breaking the Age Code- How Your Belief About Aging Determine How Long & Well You Live” :
1.Spiked Cortisol Stress Can Bring You Down – Decreased stress with a positive age mindset, specifically measured by the chemical stress biomarker of cortisol (using the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging data):
2.Lower Dementia Risks– Decreased risk for dementia with positive age beliefs, including the risky gene for APOe4 associated with Alzheimer’s (using a sample of 5000 Seniors over a period of 4 years):
3.Adding years to your life– 7.5 year increase in longevity is possible with a constructive age mindset (using the Ohio Longitudinal Study on Aging and Retirement):
4.Beliefs Can Turn Into A Heart Reality– Positive age beliefs translated into a decreased risk of a heart event after the age of 60 years old using the beliefs of young people studied over a 30 year period in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging data:
As a side note here, I just wanted to point you to two men that I’ll bet, if they were involved in this Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging (BLSA) 30 year study, would have been two star students for their positive age beliefs in their youth. I can testify personally to that positivity from my Dad, even when I was a little girl, he ALWAYS looked to the sunny side of life and Harlo Donelson, knowing him over these past 2 decades. He also has always been a fountain of alacrity!:
They both now, at the age of 90 (Harlo Donelson on the right) and 92 (My Dad-Al Rathert on the left) still work in their professions of law and dentistry AND they are involved in their church and c0mmunity! They are also active, Harlo still takes care of his lawn and my Dad still puts some time in at his farm! That’s a win-win for mental AND physical health at any age!
So what can we do behaviorally to move the needle from negative age biases to positive?
Check out Vital Aging: “It Was A Very Good Year” Part II!!
Recap of Vital Aging: “It Was A Very Good Year”Part I
I.Memories that decrease and increase with age:
A.Increases with age- Semantic Memory
B.Increases with age-Pattern Recognition Memory
C.Stays the same with age-Procedural Memory
D. Decreases with age-Episodic Memory
II.Studies That Support Positive Age Beliefs Are A Good For The Body, Mind & Soul:
A.Americans Need Some Age Attitude Adjustments!
B.Your Attitude About Aging in Your Younger Years Matters!
C.Your mindset about aging CAN effect your overall health (and that’s not just memory)!
Would you like to try your hand at a simple Thai dish that tastes just like your favorite Thai carry-out spot? This recipe just needs a couple of ingredients that you might not have on hand, like Oyster sauce and fish sauce but it definitely gives the dish that Thai zing, plus those ingredients last forever in your fridge for your next Thai craving!
SEARED COD WITH THAI STIR FRY
280 g. asparagus
1 T. Chili infused Olive Oil (or just use regular olive oil if you don’t want the heat)
1 T. Sesame Oil
60 g. shallots (if not, just use red onions instead), finely diced
8 oz. white (or any kind) mushrooms, sliced into ½” slices, without stem
60 g. sweet red peppers, small dice
8 oz. black barley (or your grain of choice)
½ T. Oyster sauce (if not available, double the soy sauce)
½ T. Soy Sauce
½ T. Fish Sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 T. Olive oil
2- 5oz. Cod Fillets
2 T. Cornstarch
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. Weber’s Smokehouse Maple seasoning (pepper and salt is just fine if you don’t have it )
.5 oz chopped pistachios
1 T. each of sliced cilantro and mint leaves
½ lime cut into 2 wedges
- Remove 1 inch from bottom of asparagus spears. Boil water in a large pot. When boiling, insert asparagus and boil 2-3 minutes. The spears should not be limp but they should have the edge of rawness removed with the boiling.
- Drain the asparagus then immediately “shock” it in a large bowl of ice water. Let the asparagus sit in the ice water bath for a couple minutes, then drain it and cut it into 1” diagonals. Cut asparagus into 1 inch bites and set aside.
- Using a large skillet (I use my wrought iron skillet for that perfect sear) warm up the skillet with medium heat. When warmed, pour in Chili infused oil and sesame oil.
- Saute the shallots first, then peppers and mushrooms until lightly browned. Add the shocked asparagus and cooked grains.
- In a small bowl mix the oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and sugar. Pour over stir fry mixture.
- Spoon stir-fry mixture into a small bowl or divide it evenly between two plates and set aside.
- Remove the moisture from the cod with paper towels (this helps it brown nicely and ensures the fish will have that nice flakiness).
- Using a small shallow bowl or tray, mix the cornstarch with the paprika and seasoning. Coat the fillets on all sides with the mixture.
- Using the pan you used for the stir-fry, heat the remaining 1 T olive oil. When heated place the fillets in the skillet and don’t disturb for 4 minutes. Flip to the other side for the same amount of time.
- Place the fillet on the side or top of the stir-fry in the divided plates. Top with cilantro, mint and chopped pistachios. Set lime wedge on side and squeeze over before “digging in”!! ENJOY!!
Nutrition Info per serving: 615 calories, 25.8 g. fat, 58.5 g. carbohydrates, 40.5 g. protein.