There are some things we have to accept as we age. Things that befall nearly everyone, like greying hair or reduced flexibility. Alongside those are even more less-favorable effects, like the loss of memory. It becomes harder to remember recent events, and long-standing memories start to slip away from us.
Thankfully, there are professionals on the case, with researchers looking into ways this standard cognitive decline can be stopped, or even reversed, and what causes it to do so.
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Looking around, it's easy to see that aging is often looked down upon in many cultures. We place great emphasis on youth and beauty, which can lead to people feeling ashamed of becoming older. So, they seek treatments, products, and procedures, whatever will help them cling to youthful appearances.
Growing older isn’t something to be ashamed of, nor is it something to hide from. In fact, thinking positively about aging can be good for the mind, according to a recent study to come out of Yale.
What Matters Most
A recent study from Yale University has made a fascinating link between our perceptions about aging and the functions we retain as we age, namely our memory.
It's a widely accepted fact that as we age, our memory tends to get worse, with it really ramping up as we enter old age.
For the study Yale conducted, they labeled this loss of memory function as Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, which also included other cognitive functions affected by age such as the ability to focus.
Brand New Knowledge
The study involved over 1700 participants over the age of 65, and the results were absolutely groundbreaking.
They discovered that older people with MCI were 30% more likely to regain normal cognitive function if they believed and thought positively about aging, especially if aging was celebrated in their culture.
They also discovered that this positive aging outlook helped participants recover cognition two years earlier than those who still thought poorly about growing older. This remained true among all base levels of MCI severity.
What We Know
First, let's address a big question that's answered by this study: Is MCI really curable?
Sort of, yes. There are people who recover from MCI and gain back whatever mental facilities were lost, but current research has yet to reveal why exactly some people recover and some don't. That's why this study is so revolutionary.
"Most people assume there is no recovery from MCI, but in fact half of those who have it do recover. said Becca Levy, lead author of the study. "Little is known about why some recover while others don't. That's why we looked at positive age beliefs, to see if they would help provide an answer."
A Positive Outlook
Levy's previous studies led her to conducting this one, as she had found similar results in other, similar tests.
For example, an older experiment of hers found that someone with positive beliefs about aging were caused less stress by cognitive challenges. Not only that, but their self-confidence regarding their cognitive abilities were increased, which in turn did actually affect their ability to perform those functions.
Levy figured that if positive thinking about aging could lead to social and mental boosts in cognition, maybe it had a biological effect on the brain as well.
Strength In Community
This current study is the first of its kind that links a culture-based factor to MCI recovery, proving that greater longevity and a more peaceful time spent in old age is extremely dependent on how and where we were raised.
Those in cultures where aging is celebrated and elders are respected as valued members of the community are more likely to remain in good mental standing as they grow into this role.
Looking back, this seems obvious, but having research of its kind to back it up is incredible!
Learning As We Grow
Instead of dwelling on signs of physical aging, we should focus on the upside of the aging process – lessons we've learned, wisdom we’ve obtained, and the wonderful accomplishments we’ve achieved over the years. With a positive attitude towards aging and maturity, we can see life’s transitions as opportunities to gain new perspectives and experiences.
As the study revealed, this is largely a cultural problem. In order to turn around certain societies' perceptions of aging, we need to change how we think about the aging process. Embrace the concept of aging, and realize that it is a natural, unavoidable phenomenon that should be embraced. Through positive thinking and words, we can celebrate the joys of growing older and the positive changes that it brings, as well as fend off the less favorable side-effects.