Vitauct and the Acceptance of Aging
The concept itself contains a kind of spell against old age: “vita” is a Latin word that means life, and “aucto” stands for “continuously increasing, multiplying.” This word describes the mechanisms resisting aging processes and targeting the preservation of vitality, but first and foremost, it deals with psychological health.
Biologically, vitauct manifests itself in the body’s ability to develop compensatory capacity in the body that helps maintain its functioning when cells are aging. Wear and tear of our body does not occur evenly, with some organs giving up earlier and some other organs living their best till the very end. Vitauct enables us to not simply exist physically but also live life to its fullest.
As for the psychological vitauct manifestation, we typically face it after 75, when the period of elderly age ends, and old age itself begins.
If you do not have serious illnesses (or you do and you follow all the doctor’s prescriptions), you lead a moderately active lifestyle, eat clean and avoid stress, then you have a very high chance of living to your very old years. Over the last 20 years alone, the number of centenarians, people who have crossed the 100-year mark, has quadrupled. On average, there are 69 people over the age of 100 for every million people worldwide, and this number is likely to increase.
A new scientific study, “How healthy will we be in 2040?” conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle, has predicted that all countries will likely experience at least a slight increase in lifespans. The population in developed countries expects to live 2-5 years more, while the developing countries look at an entire decade of longer life. And if now life expectancy makes up 65 years for men and 69 for women (these are the “average” global figures, life expectancy is higher for high-income countries), with each five-year period, the average life expectancy will only increase.
Our life expectancy grows mainly on account of prolonged old age. Although doctors and researchers are advancing every year in the treatment and prevention of age-related diseases, for many of us, old age is primarily associated with the exhaustion of vital activity and inevitable dependence on others. Is there anything we can do about it?
According to the classification proposed by David Brawley, professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia, the life of a modern person is divided into five cycles: intrauterine period, childhood – from birth to 13 years old, adolescence – from 11 to 21 years old, adulthood – from 21 years old to 55 years old, and old age. Moreover, according to Brawley, old age begins at 65 (before that, the researcher identifies the pre-retirement age) and is divided into three periods: retirement – from 65 years old, old age – from 70 years old, and finish – the age that includes illness and death.
When we hit 50-55, our social activity declines, changes in social roles, and adapts to the changes. After this period, another issue arrives, and we need to learn to cope with it. These new issues are conditioned by the decreasing range of our physical capabilities, infirmities, diseases, and often the necessity of special care by others. Vitauct has a primary purpose of giving us the ability to accept these changes and adapt to them by redirecting the intellect from the cognition of the world to the recognition and self-regulation of one’s own mental activity, one’s own inner world. In fact, vitauct helps us make the biggest and most difficult journey — deep into ourselves, previously unknown.
Types of aging – can we choose?
Despite the fact that each of us is unique, there are common patterns we tend to follow in the same situations. According to researchers, our attitude to aging can also be divided into a few types: constructive, defensive, aggressive-active, and passive types of aging.
- Constructive aging
People belonging to the first type are characterized by a fairly effective (constructive) adaptation strategy of an elderly person to the period of old age. These people maintain the ability to find joy in life. They actively socialize and demonstrate a sense of humor. Deep inside, they have accepted their role as seniors; they soberly approach the fact that they have to quit their job and retire. The inevitability of death is also viewed as the given, without anxiety or fear.
At the same time, they continue to plan for the future, and these plans are aimed both at meeting their own needs and the needs of their loved ones. They find fulfillment in their hobbies for many years, they are interested in both social and political life, and most importantly, they retain the ability to rejoice in what awaits them in the future.
- Defensive aging
While the attitude type described above can be viewed as perfect, the people who fall into the defensive type find it more difficult to adapt to the changing life conditions and circumstances. Scientists believe these difficulties can be attributed to the fact that throughout their life, these people have been striving for independence and self-reliance. The necessity to seek and accept help from others doesn’t come easy.
In fact, representatives of this type try to postpone the moment when they have to come to terms with aging. They avoid introspection and assessment of the situation, and, as a result, they may find themselves completely helpless in the moment when they have to face reality.
- Aggressive-active aging
The people who belong to this group have the proclivity to shift the responsibility for their failures, mistakes, and hardships to the outer circumstances and others. As a result, they perceive aging and its inconveniences as an unfair misfortune. In terms of the aging process, they first see the inevitable exhaustion of physical and mental capabilities, and they try to protect themselves with the help of any sort of activity, physical or mental. Moreover, because of the refusal to realize and accept the real state of affairs, they often bite off more than they can chew. Consequently, their health shatters, which is perceived especially acutely and negatively because they are forced to return to the cruel truth: old age is close.
- Passive aging
People of this type are similar in their attitude to aging to the previous group. Yet, there is a significant difference: the target of their aggression is directed primarily at themselves. As a rule, passive aging is most often observed in people who, at a young age, tended to avoid responsibility and, thus, view retirement as a blessing since it makes it possible to free themselves from efforts and responsibility. They are looking for opportunities to take a subordinate position, are pessimistic, and tend to exaggerate their flaws. People of this type most often end up being depressed in retirement. Even more so, many of these people perceive life as a burden while death seems to be a timely liberation.
How do age well?
This is where things get tricky – mainly because there is not and can not be a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. Most likely, we will live to the age where our physical and mental capabilities will start depleting and withering, and we won’t be able to continue living at the pace we are used to. Nevertheless, as you can see, even from the classification of the aging types above, those people who find the courage to admit the ongoing changes, accept their inevitability, and seek opportunities in the changed circumstances, feel the best. It can be assumed that courage is perhaps the main secret to happy aging.
However, there are still some scientifically proven recommendations for those who want to maximize the period of physical and mental activity and postpone the onset of the “age of dependence,” when they will have to depend to some extent on others.
- Be organized
The more order and balance your life has, the longer it will last, and the healthier and more active you will stay. The talented authors of the large-scale «Longevity Project» study, carried out in the US over 80 years, produced curious results. Specialists who have analyzed the findings are sure that organized people, accustomed to calculating all risks in advance, end up with more cautious behavior, and as a result, they are less likely to take risks and go to doctors earlier.
- Go shopping
No, seriously, the survey “Daily shopping trips associated with increased survival for the elderly,” done by a specialist in Taiwan, has looked into the lives of 2 000 people aged over 65. The findings were unexpected. Men who shop daily are 28% less likely to die prematurely than those who shop less frequently. For women, shopping every day also significantly reduces the risk of early death by 23%. The study experts believe it is all about social contact, memory training (to keep the shopping list), and physical activity, which is not so small while shopping!
- Add turmeric to your food more often
Turmeric has long been referred to as an effective tool for mental health stimulation. The study conducted in Singapore, “Curry Consumption and Cognitive Function in the Elderly,“ where about 1000 participants aged between 60 and 93 were surveyed, showed interesting findings: those who consumed meals containing turmeric at least twice a year scored more points on cognitive tests. This is most likely due to the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and cholesterol-lowering properties of curcumin contained in turmeric.
- Join the choir
The American study “Singing in a choir could be ‘the new exercise,” which surveyed almost 7000 elderly people, proved that singing in a choir is extremely healthy! Participants who got together regularly for choir rehearsals proved to be in better health, took less medication, and even fell less often. Doctors attribute this effect to the fact that singing helps develop the lungs, stimulates blood circulation, and most importantly, improves emotional state and mood, and helps in socialization, thereby protecting against loneliness, the main enemy of the elderly.
- Register with social nets
Social media surfing can be dangerous for young people, but the older we get, the more beneficial it becomes for us. Another study in which volunteers aged 55-76 took part, “Web surfing can keep dementia at bay,” has proved that elderly people actively browsing and scrolling and clicking have a better developed and more agile part of the brain that is responsible for the cognitive capacity!
The inevitable aging
Despite the optimistic research and advanced medicine demonstrating the high capacity for decelerating the aging process in cells or even one day stopping it, we will hardly live to see those new, revolutionary times. But no matter how old you are today, it’s time to start preparing for the future: physical and mental activity, healthy habits, and most importantly, the ability to accept yourself at any age, separating your personality from your body and appearance, and even mental ailments — this is a real art aging. Or maybe, who knows, the art of eternal life.
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