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{ } AGING with an Attitude Unleashing Potential in Older Adults I n graduate school, I continue to seize every opportunity to acquire information that could be benefi cial to my mission to promote “aging with an attitude.” From my studies, I found that gerontologists (scientists who study aging) have been hard at work to fi nd ways to enhance the quality of life in late adulthood. In this article, I would like to share the results of some fascinating studies that they have conducted. When someone mentions the words “growth” or “potential” or “development,” most people think of young people. Few would entertain the idea that an 85-year old would be referenced. But here’s an eye opener—the science of lifespan develop- ment has ample evidence showing that growth, potential, and development continue through one’s lifespan. Whether it is obvious or not, older adults not only welcome the opportunity to contribute but relish the idea of helping shape the future. First of all, let’s agree that potential is not at all about brawn but about brains. Then, let’s remind ourselves that older people can and have been vital to society. They can and are helping shape our future. Gerontologists admit that research has painfully failed older adults by not yet finding a reliable way to measure and identify the extent of their potential to contribute to society. This lack of measurement has contributed to the unjustified bias that exists towards older individuals. BUT as you read this article, I urge you to keep in mind the premise that many older adults (even ones that have been labelled as “absent”) still have untapped potential. What can we do? Dorie Sugay is the Executive Director of Visiting Angels, a company that provides living-assistance services to seniors and adults-in-need who wish to stay in their own home or receive one-on-one care within a facility. This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It was written independently of Visiting Angels. The names of clients and caregivers were changed to protect their privacy. Here are a few thoughts to get the discussion started… We can have a more “age-friendly” environment. Something as simple as having more chairs downtown so our older population can be more engaged in the community socially. In the Azores, they had small patches of garden with chairs everywhere you go and it defi nitely has invited a lot of their older adults to go out for walks. We should too! We can help our seniors with “age-appropriate” activities. A study involving 59-84 year olds who had not exercised for many years were asked to 84 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2017 participate in an 8-week class involving resistance training with elastic bands. The results were encouraging – participants measured for muscular strength showed signifi cant improvement. We should have more exercise classes for older adults in the community. We can get our older adults out there. Let’s get our youth together with our older adults. Ageism can severely affect physical well-being (Ranzijn, 2002). Let’s change the unjust labelling. In a study conducted in 1999 by Schooler, Mulatu and Oates where they provided study-participants with complex work that required “independent judgment and making decisions involving ill-defi ned or apparently contradictory contingencies”— they had a pleasantly surprising conclusion. They found that older adults did much better than younger workers! (According to another study by Labouvie-Vief and Hakim-Larson in 1989 and a follow-up study by Sinnott in 1984, “the ability to tap on these intellectual abilities is evident in a stage of cognitive development that occurs in adulthood— development still at work there.”) Our youth ought to know that there are things they can learn from our older adults and the best way to teach them that is to have them be around each other! We can avoid minimizing their contributions because there is no paycheck behind it. Remember that what you take for granted should not diminish the importance of the contribution. How many of you have parents who babysit and perhaps assist the children with homework, or learning a song, or practicing their multiplication tables? How many of you have parents who have helped you with a few dollars here and there, or helped your children? How many of you have parents who volunteer at the Church to count the donations, do bookkeeping, or trim the roses by the entrance? You may take these for granted but these warrant points! We can remember that generativity is part of the developmental process of older adult aging and it really should be given the opportunity to express itself. All people have a psychodynamic urge to contribute to the welfare of other people, which usually becomes evident in middle gmhtoday.com