A positive attitude can improve your quality of life and contribute to longevity and improved health as you age. A positive attitude to life has been shown by studies to increase your lifespan by 11 to 15%, and increase your odds of living to 85 years or more. Other benefits of optimism include stress reduction, improved immunity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. It improves resilience to illness and contributes to happiness, leading to a richer, more fulfilled life (Source VeryWellMind.com).
My Observations of Elderly Patients
As a nurse I have developed the opinion over many years, that if you make it to your 80s and 90s, you are often healthier than the 50 or 60 year old in the next bed. That generation was made of steel and their inner strength comes from having to survive and thrive during so many hardships. In their eight or nine decades they have seen wars and hardships like no other.
The Strongest Woman I Know Is 85 Years Old
The strongest woman I know is my 85 year old mother-in-law. Strength can be measured in physical terms, but in this case the strength is her inner strength and fortitude. Over three years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She was offered treatment but she declined as it wouldn’t have cured her. While her family fell to pieces she declared “I feel fine! What are you all upset about?”
She got on with life and it was easy to forget she had incurable cancer and other health issues. She has always been very active and sociable and cancer didn’t slow her down. Off she went to bingo and lunch with her friends, carrying on life as usual.
Gwen has not only survived, but thrived. She refused to change her lifestyle and continued to live life to the fullest. She’s the type of person that cleans up and moves all the furniture before the cleaner comes. We offered to help her and my father-in-law but they push on, staying as independent as they can in their own home.
A Positive Attitude Can Improve Your Quality of Life
We often complained about our aches and pains and other physical ailments. Gwen would sit and listen to us all moan, then would pipe up with “You’re all falling apart! I feel great!” She put us all to shame because she never complained, and rarely has had a day in bed. If she goes to bed during the day we know she’s really sick. Her positive attitude and stoicism has helped her maintain her health.
The Cancer Has Progressed
This year we’ve all noticed her slowing down, becoming more short of breath and looking pale and gaunt (under the makeup of course!). One day she coughed up blood, which gave us all a fright. My sister-in-law persuaded her to go to hospital to be checked. Remarkably she’s never been in hospital other than that time, and another time when I called the ambulance because she was having chest pain.
The scans revealed that the cancer has grown and now 90% occludes her bronchus – the main airway to her left lung. It spread from the initial tumour on her left chest wall to surround all the major blood vessels and organs beneath her sternum. It’s finally catching up with her and she only has a limited amount of time left. Mind you, she was given 9 months to live over three years ago so she’s far surpassed anyone’s expectations.
Staying Active Keeps You Healthy
Her positive attitude and get-up-and-go is the reason she is still here with us. If she had decided to slow down, sit around and accept our help, I have no doubt she wouldn’t have still been here. Just by being more active (she even still does her exercises) she has kept her physical strength up, and not allowed her body to degenerate.
If she had lain around, she would have been at higher risk of developing pneumonia because her lower lungs would collapse and trap mucous in their bases. Just by keeping active she has prevented this common cause of death in the elderly. Both my parents-in-law have had influenza and other upper respiratory infections during the last few years, and miraculously have pulled through every time.
Just seeing how the two of them have not only survived, but thrived, is so inspirational. My own father lost most of his mobility over the last two decades of his life because he enjoyed being waited on hand and foot. I remember encouraging him not to sit around when he was only in his 60s. Use it or lose it.
Strong Family Connections Are Important
My husband’s family have always lived within 10 minutes of each other which is in contrast to my own. I had no family around when I was bringing up my sons as a single mother, so it was a shock to the system to suddenly have so much connection with family. That connection has contributed to my parents-in-law living such fulfilled lives. My nieces and nephew don’t know how lucky they are to have so much contact with their grandparents in their 20s.
Keeping Mentally Active Improves Quality of Life as You Age
Keeping mentally active has also played a part in their quality of life. My mother-in-law does puzzles and crosswords, while my father-in-law has a keen interest in documentaries. He tinkers with the boat and has always been a keen gardener. We always get great advice on gardening and home improvements from my father-in-law.
Living Life Without Regrets
The one thing I’ve seen in common with my father and my parents-in-law is that they don’t fear death. They have lived long productive lives and don’t live with regret. They have strong connections with their families and look forward to being reunited with their loved ones that have gone before them. My dad was incredibly peaceful and serene when he was on his death bed despite severe pain.
We can’t choose the day we die (unless we commit suicide) but we can live our lives in such a way that the quality of life is maximised. Keeping physically active and emotionally connected to our families – having a purpose in life – is vital if we want to live life to the fullest like my mother-in-law.
Our Family’s Loss Will Be Acutely Painful
We will all be devastated when we lose her. The heart of the family will be gone. We’re all dreading the day. My sister-in-law and I lost our mothers when we were newlyweds so we know what it’s like. 30 years later and I still miss her. Our husbands don’t know what being without your mother is like. I just hope I can be strong enough to help my husband through the grieving process as he has helped me. I lost my sister suddenly and my father after a long battle with prostate and pancreatic cancer, and Phil has supported me through both those losses.
We’re planning a surprise high tea garden party for my mother-in-law’s 86th birthday in three weeks. If she can make it through her birthday, then Christmas, then my father-in-law’s 90th in January, we will be relieved. We’ve had her for borrowed time already but that would be a bonus.
Stay Positive – It Will Improve Your Quality of Life
Elderly people who maintain their quality of life have much to teach us. A positive attitude and a sense of optimism will not only improve your quality of life, but it will help you live longer. Embrace all that life has to offer. Keep strong ties with your family and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Your health will be enhanced if you stay active and continue to exercise your mind. Above all, a positive attitude can improve your quality of life as you age.
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Shared on Life This Week Linkup on Denyse Whelan Blogs