Ageing may be a chronological state of measurement whereas elderhood is a state of mind related to being actively and positively alive.
The distinction is important according to Canadian health, fitness and wellbeing authority Jeff Rooney.
He’s found that those living to a very old age, as in centenarians, have helped to dispel myths, isolate problem areas to understand and manage and, most importantly, helpful behaviours to enjoy the ageing experience.
In addition to his own insights and experiences Rooney he has focussed on the work of Dr Mario E Martinez, a clinical neuropsychologist. An expert in the field, Martinez is particularly mindful of the influence cultural contexts have on the process of health, illness and ageing.
Cultures that support growing older as a positive development associated with increased wisdom, and abilities, have higher numbers of centenarians living healthier lives versus those who view ageing as a process of inevitable deterioration.
Debunking the myths
Contrary to what might be popular, or even unpopular, belief none of the following hold true according to both Jeff Rooney and Mario Martinez.
- Genetics determine longevity.
- Vegans live longer (there are NO vegan centenarians).
- Vegetarians live longer (there are only a few).
- Alzheimer’s is inevitable.
- Teetotalers and non-smokers live longer (moderate use of alcohol and tobacco is the way).
- Anger should be avoided (expression of emotions rather than bottling up is better).
- You’ll die of cancer if you live long enough (most don’t die of prolonged illness).
- Aging means a deteriorating mind (mind and brain are quite different and you can stay sharp even if your brain wouldn’t hold up well under an autopsy).
- Socio-economic factors determine lifespan.
- Failing capacities are inevitable.
Removing the road blocks
The elderhood journey may have a few bumps along the way. Here are some to look out for and ideally avoid.
- Withholding joy.
- Fear-based assumptions.
- Atheism (there are no atheists but rather those holding a belief in something transcendent such as a benign spirit. Centenarians tend to be spiritual more than religious).
- Lamenting and complaining.
- Your belief in cultural attitudes will kill you before your genes do.