Aging Positively in the Modern World

In many ways Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon’s quest to find the fountain of youth appears to have been a success. Average life expectancy is 30 years longer than it once was, retirement age is creeping ever northward, and adults 60+ represent the fastest-growing segment of the population, giving rise to any number of products, services, and publications.

That does not mean, however, the process of aging has been made any easier. Older adults constitute 18% of total U.S. hospital outpatient visits annually, second most behind only infants. Driving those visits, says the American Psychological Association, are “chronic and debilitating medical disorders, loss of friends and loved ones and the inability to take part in once-cherished activities.”[1] Consequently, substance misuse among older adults is on the rise, as are suicide rates, and the phenomenon of ageism can feel down right pervasive.

Yet shining through it all are perspectives like writer/activist Betty Friedan’s, who said “Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” Thankfully, that positive sentiment has been embraced by a host of organizations, such as AARP, the American Federation for Aging Research, and the American Geriatrics Society, as well as the FrameWorks Institute who recently launched a campaign to “drive a more informed conversation about aging and its implications for our communities.”

The Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest provider of outpatient behavioral health services, is proud to further that conversation on May 15th by dedicating their annual Mental Health Symposium to Paths to Positive Aging: Achieving & Fostering a Positive Mindset. The Symposium is an all-day event that will take place at the Manchester Downtown Hotel (formerly Radisson Hotel), 700 Elm Street, in Manchester. Attendees can expect to encounter the principles of Positive Psychology as they relate to “Positive Aging,” a new concept that illuminates sources of happiness throughout the entire aging process. To age positively, after all, is not how well individuals avoid maladies but rather how they train their focus on what makes life worth living in spite of physical or mental challenges.

While, yes, Ponce de Leon never found a physical fountain, his infamous quest continues to loom large in us all. Ironically, had he taken the time to look inward, he might not have had to leave the Iberian Peninsula. He may have never crossed the cold Atlantic, never swatted his way through the Florida Everglades, or wherever legend lands him. No. I’d like to imagine Mr. Leon somewhere in Spain daring to learn songs from the Red Book of Montserrat, the sky like a nice rosé.

[1] American Psychological Association. (2016). Aging and Depression.