Which word describes you most accurately concerning your aging? Are you a denialist, a realist, or an enthusiast? That question was coined by Dr. Bill Thomas, a Gerontologist, professor, entrepreneur, and playwright whose wide-ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. His dedication to culture change and innovations for well-being led the Wall Street Journal to highlight Dr. Thomas as one of the nation’s “top 10 innovators” changing the future of retirement in America.
Retirement and Senior Living in Topeka and Kansas City
It’s important to look seriously at your attitude about growing old. No one is escaping it, but your attitude makes a huge difference! Becca Levy, an associate professor of psychology at the Yale School of Public Health and author of a current study on aging, says, “Negative stereotyping is a public health issue. Ultimately it is possible that such a constant cultural mindset perpetuates an age-based stereotype threat (ABST), along with prejudice and discrimination that is nearly as insidious as those surrounding racism or gender inequality.” Her research on aging found that a positive attitude can lengthen your life by 7.4 years!
Are you a Denialist?
Could you fall into the denialist group? These folks don’t show up to tour retirement communities until they are in serious failing health. They refuse to prepare for the future because they don’t want to think about it. They live their lives on the defense, not on the offense. Their favorite phrase is, “They’ll take me out of here feet first!”
What happens most often is that a spouse of a denialist will come to tour because they are open to the idea and looking for more opportunities for socialization and activity.
Jane came to tour McCrite Plaza along with her girlfriend. She told us immediately that her husband was not interested and would not even come to enjoy a free lunch and tour. She said he was perfectly happy watching his favorite television shows and refused to discuss their future. On the other hand, she was curious and knew that, at some point, they would have to get out of their large family home. There seemed to be taboo subjects in their home because they always ended in arguments. She specifically asked that we not call her at home because it would upset him. After her visit, she periodically called for more information until her husband had a serious fall and had to rely on a wheelchair for mobility. He finally agreed that they could not manage the home anymore and decided they should move. Thank heavens Jane had done all the research and knew just what to do next. As it turned out, she and her husband moved into McCrite Plaza and have enjoyed their new life together. It was most interesting that after he and Jane made their adjustment, he insinuated that it was his idea all along! The arguments were over.
The denialists are no less intelligent but are more reticent to contemplate the future. It usually takes a health event or family pressure to create the opportunity for new thinking. They are often the ones who declare that they are staying put where they are and never moving!
Are you a Realist?
It’s important to acknowledge that people often have different perspectives and beliefs. Some individuals may identify as realists, meaning they prioritize practicality and facts over emotions or abstract ideas. Even though the denialist thinks he is being practical, it is emotion that is ruling his decision. Respecting these differing viewpoints and patiently waiting for the right time is important.
Most people fall into the realist category. Although there is little joy or excitement about growing older, there is the acknowledgment that it is unavoidable. No one wants the alternative, for sure! The anti-aging industry targets this group of people. Everything from cosmetics, gym memberships, and health supplements is pushed to them. The realists are interested in learning what retirement living looks like. With an invitation and some curiosity, they’ll show up at open houses and events held in Senior communities.
The realists like to visit with their contemporaries and compare notes about their discoveries. They enjoy reading magazines and books about healthy aging. They are the AARP crowd. They are always up for trying new ways to stay young. They may not be enthusiastic about aging, but they are eager to do what they can to stay young.
Harold and Ruth came to many events at McCrite Plaza. They loved the annual Concert Under the Stars held every fall. They were always up for free entertainment and became what we lovingly called ‘Friends of McCrite.’ The two of them were always first on the dance floor. They were on a first-name basis with most of the staff, and we always enjoyed seeing them. They made friends with many of the residents that were their contemporaries. So many would encourage them to hurry up and move because they were missing out on all the fun! They were just not ready and were determined to stay in their home as long as possible. Over the years, the staff began noticing Harold’s decline. Ruth became the driver and loaded up Harold’s walker so he could participate. They no longer got up to dance, but they loved being a part of the atmosphere. By the time they made their decision to move, Harold needed Assisted Living. They still got a lovely apartment but missed out on living in the McCrite Independent Living area. The move was more difficult because of their delay, but they still were greeted with enthusiasm when they finally arrived.
Are you an Enthusiast?
The enthusiast embraces aging (yes, even the wrinkles) and celebrates the opportunity for more birthdays! You can spot them because they are always upbeat and look at the positive side of life. They eagerly anticipate new chapters of life. They are not naive about aging, but they accept the process. They are not fighting it; they accept the good with the difficult. Enthusiasts use different vocabulary. You rarely hear them complaining about aging. They seem exceptionally grateful for their lives. They have a growth mindset, not a fixed mindset; they’re open to learning new things, including options for Senior Housing. They are curious and spontaneous.
As Becca Levy discovered in her research at Yale School of Public Health, these folks will most likely live longer because of their positive attitudes. The difference between a realist and an enthusiast is just a small jump. Sometimes you just need permission to embrace aging and refuse to allow the culture to bring you down.
There are other parts of the world where aging is admired and honored. There was a time in history when Elders and Chieftains were privileged. What has happened? Today, in our Western culture, growing old is considered a disease process; at worst, a curse. A great deal of conversation, media representation, and current literature paints a sad picture. Let’s just decide to stop repeating it. Growing old is a blessing.
There are many enthusiasts that live at McCrite Plaza. If they were not before, they become enthusiasts when they move in! It is hard to think of just one story because there are so many. One example is Margaret, who called McCrite from Chicago. She had been planning for years to move, unbeknownst to us. She had traveled the world with her husband and was an accomplished musician. After his death, she had her plan in place. She wanted to move back to her hometown to live out her years. She moved with her baby grand piano and all of her scrapbooks from around the world. She had family and friends that were a part of her life for 70 years, but she hadn’t lived close by for many, many years. She was a true enthusiast as she approached this new chapter in her life.
At McCrite Plaza, we love the enthusiasts. They are our biggest cheerleaders. Even those that arrive as realists and denialists often say they wish they had moved sooner! We invite you to come and tour our community and see for yourself. You’ll meet all kinds of people and all types of personalities. As we like to say, “Come to McCrite Plaza and make the rest of your life the best of your life!”
Call us in Briarcliff-Kansas City at (816) 888-7930 or (785) 267-2960 in Topeka and schedule a tour to see everything available to make life exciting for your future!