As Bette Davis simply stated, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies”. Similar to many other seniors, Jody Gastfriend’s 90 year old mother knows this all too well. Living in a retirement community, she is frequently reminded of the fragility of aging. She lost her husband of many years to dementia. She has fallen and broken her femur twice, leaving her home bound for months. Additionally, she spent six months so sick from a chronic respiratory infection that she barely made it to her grandson’s wedding. Yet through all these hardships related to getting older, there’s one thing that keeps her going and even thriving. And that thing is her sense of gratitude.
In this Forbes article, Jody explains that her mother seems to have even more gratitude in old age than ever before. She attributes gratitude to her relatively good health, spirits, and her happiness. However, she’s not the only one saying these things. A growing body of research proves that having gratitude can have a lasting impact on a multitude of aspects to our health and well-being.
Jody was intrigued by how much gratitude her mother showed, despite her hardships. Consequently, she decided to ask her mother about it to see if the rest of us could learn from her example. When prompted, her mother explained that her own mother had died very young at age 35. So she never expected to live this long. She depends on a cane or walker these days. And her memory certainly is not what it used to be. But despite the continual reminders of her age, she is most grateful she can still attend meaningful and joyful activities. She’s happy she can maintain some independence in the retirement community and is surrounded by supportive and interesting people. Her wonderful children, grandchildren, and memories of her husband only add to her gratitude.
This is not to say that she doesn’t acknowledge the many undeniably hard aspects of aging. Jody’s mother understands that you don’t have to negate the bad parts in order to be grateful for the good ones. She suggests recognizing positive events in each day, no matter how small. Connect with nature and notice the natural beauty in your world. Interrupt the cycle of negative thoughts by focusing on your breath. And aim to balance the challenging losses you experience while aging with all that you have gained.