As you know, September is Healthy Aging Month. The School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership asked Professor Victoria Teske, a member of our faculty who specializes in geriatric nursing, to contribute to our blog, and she happily agreed. Here is her posting, to help us end the month on the same note as we started.
On my 25th birthday, I went into panic mode. I was getting old! On my 30th birthday, I partied through the night. On my 40th birthday, I defied my age by doing an hour of high impact aerobics and another hour of weights. On my 50th birthday, I got a new puppy. On my 60th birthday, I decided to stop denying the numbers and embrace the moment! It’s somewhat fascinating to me as a gerontological nurse practitioner and an instructor of geriatric nursing, to consider my own aging process.
In the geriatric nursing course at Minnesota State University Moorhead “Gerontological Nursing to Promote Successful Aging” the first assignment is to write an essay where students explore different websites and research studies to develop their definition of successful aging. More often than not, they conclude that “Successful aging is in the eye of the beholder.”
This assignment is based upon Meredith Flood’s (2006) theory of successful aging. According to Flood, successful aging occurs when an individual is able to adapt to the changes of aging. Coping processes for the age related changes include functional performance mechanisms, the ability to actively respond to those changes. An example of this might be an individual who develops osteoarthritis and implements an exercise program to manage symptoms and maintain function. Intrapsychic coping factors are those character traits that we are born with that define how we respond to environmental stimuli. An individual described in the situation above who is optimistic about the prospect of exercise and sees it as an opportunity to improve overall general health has a sense of personal control. Spirituality is a relationship with a higher power as a source of support. Effective coping results in gerotranscendence. This is a coping mechanism where the person’s perspective on life changes from “materialistic and rational” to “mature and experiential”. Elders find self-acceptance and wisdom and are less likely to fear death (Flood).
Am I aging successfully? Finally, maybe so. In my 70th year I’m thinking that I will climb Mt. Rainer as high as I can and no matter how high that is, it will be good.