Magazine article Psychology Today

Young at Heart

Magazine article Psychology Today

Young at Heart

Article excerpt

THE SECRET TO AGING WELL MAY BE PRETENDING THAT YOU'RE NOT AGING AT ALL.

SEVENTY-YEAR-OLD Stuart Burney acts, teaches, and practices karate. "I feel 25," he says. "Sometimes I feel 13." Aside from hearing more "sirs" and noticing his thinning hair, he never really thought of himself as 70- until he went to an audition and was paired with a woman who reminded him of his 90-year-old mother. "I didn't realize that's my age group," he says.

Burney's feelings are hardly unique. A trio of studies in Psychology and Aging suggests that we often resist seeing ourselves as old- for good reason. Ideas about seniorsweakened bodies, loss of mental faculties-become ingrained in our psyches when we're still young and spry. When we (ineluctably) age, we risk conforming to our own low expectations and using stereotypes as excuses. "I skipped the gym today because I'm tired" becomes "I skipped the gym today because I'm old."

But while aging is unavoidable, succumbing to long-held stereotypes about what that means is not. People who have the most pessimistic views about old age are, in fact, the most likely to resist seeing themselves as elderly- an attitude that can help stave off the very things they fear. …

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