It has often been stated that age is just a chronological number and aging is a natural biological process. But successful or happy aging depends on mindset and supporting ecosystem.
The main two (2) Psychological theories of aging support this axiom. The Activity Theory of Aging proposes that successful aging happens when elderly people remain active both in context of physical as well as social ways. This implies that elders should remain physically fit and socially connected if they intend to age happily. Similarly, Continuity Theory of Aging proposes that happy elders usually follow the same behavioral pattern of their earlier days while adopting to changed circumstances. This means that elders, to remain happy, should continue to follow same life patterns, as they practiced in younger days, may be at a slower pace.Both the above theories, therefore, suggest that for successful / happy aging, people ought to continue to remain fit both in terms of physical as well as mental / social space, albeit at slower pace.
It is in this context a strong belief system comes into play as for this to happen, elders need a strong conviction that they can and they will.
Three (3) Facets of Belief System:
- Belief about Oneself
- Belief about Others
- Belief about the world
Belief about Oneself:
The first important facet is the belief in self. The elderly must believe in his / her own capabilities, skills and competencies. He / she must have the self-esteem, must be confident, physically fit, emotionally stable and have an internal conviction that he / she is still productive, useful and can contribute to the world. This attitude of self-belief is crucial as it imbibes a sense of confidence and the consequent performance. Elders usually have a tendency to feel aloof as they feel neglected. But this internal belief system about their own strengths and competence will resurrect their pride and improve their self-esteem.
Belief about Others:
This is equally important. Elders, by and large, carry a negative belief about others: family, friends, old office colleagues, among others. They feel that they are not being regarded and respected by others as they were during their earlier days. The result of such mindset is the usually three unfavorable ego state interpersonal transactions:
I am OK, you are not OK Or I am not OK, you are OK Or I am not OK, you are not OK
All three are not conducive to happy aging process as these create a vitiating climate. Elders must, therefore, migrate to a positive belief syndrome towards others (including community / society at large) resulting into all interpersonal transactions from adult Ego State: I AM OK, YOU ARE OK. That will dramatically transform their belief pattern as well as surrounding ambience into a supporting one helping in happy aging process.
Belief about the World:
The third and final belief system is about world at large. As age advances and anxiety begins to submerge the conscious mind, elders start feeling negative about world at large. They start regretting past actions and feel sad and dejected. While world & environment continue to remain the same, they only see darker side compared to the beauties. This causes serious mental issues and comes in the way of successful aging. Need of the hour is to change belief system about the world. Elders must have strong sense of appreciation, should be able to see hidden beauties in all events of nature and even see ray of hope amidst winds of darkness. This transformation in belief system is extremely crucial in voyage of life journey.
While aging is a usual biological event, crucial issue is how we look at this process. A person with a negative belief system will usually be pessimist and see the darker side of life and aging process could be painful not only for the elderly but also for people surrounding him / her. On the contrary, a person with a positive belief system might be in a better mental state to tackle challenges towards difficulties / pains associated with aging process and will possibly see happier aspects as well. The ideal axiom of belief system for any elderly should be: I am Good, They are Good and All are Good!!! This alone can create an ideal ecosystem for a satisfying aging process.
Dr A K Sen Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). This article has been published in Free Press Journal (FPJ) on 22nd January 2022, where he is a regular contributor. Dr Sen Gupta was the Director of S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai and Director & Mentor at SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai. He was a World Bank Consultant and instrumental in setting up National Banking College in Ghana, Africa and Professor at National Institute of Bank Management, Pune.