Your Fresh Start

5 tips to feel better and be better in “sweet ’16.”
Your Fresh Start 5

5. Own your age

“We live in a world and time in which aging is defined as a failure,” says Bill Thomas, M.D., a geriatrician and author of Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper and More Connected Life. “We are all exposed to some really unhealthy messages, such as that the best version of you happened a long time ago and whatever you are now is less than what you were back when you were 45 or 28 or 17.”

Yet a considerable body of research shows that better attitudes toward aging can lead to better health. For example, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging recently reported that people who held negative stereotypes about aging in their 40s were at greater risk of Alzheimer’s when they reached their late 60s. Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health found that individuals with positive impressions of aging were more likely to recover from a severe disability than their negative-minded peers—and lived an average of seven years longer.

So pervasive is our societal preference for youth that many of us don’t even think to question our own attitudes, much less try to change them. But that’s what must be done, says Dr. Thomas, who conducts annual “Age of Disruption” tours to try to change people’s ideas about aging. (For more information, see

“Own your age!” he says. “Get yourself in front of a mirror and say, ‘I am myself right now. This is exactly how I’m supposed to look.’ You are awesome the way you are. To age is to be successful. Be who you are right now, and in doing so you’ll open the door to tremendous new possibilities.”

And if you look in the mirror and don’t love what you see? “Finding fault much more often leads to doing nothing than it leads to doing something,” Dr. Thomas maintains. “What stops people from doing simple common-sense things for themselves—changing their diet, exercising more—is the fact that they feel bad about themselves. Own yourself first. Then you have a springboard for success.”

And there’s one more thing. Beyond accepting the physical self, Dr. Thomas says, successful aging usually involves caring passionately about something bigger than you. “It could be your congregation, world peace, global climate change—anything. That caring leads to the best second half of life—and it connects you to other people.”

Categories: Monmouth Health & Life