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Health Information Change Your Attitude Toward Aging

Jack Olson, MD

So you're about to blow out another candle on your birthday cake? Congratulations — it's cause for celebration. Though some might be reluctant to see a higher number, there's actually a lot to look forward to, says Jack Olson, MD, a specialist in geriatric medicine at Rush University Medical Center.

Knowing these three things can make the thought of aging easier:

1. You're smarter. Semantic memory, the ability to recall concepts and general facts, can continue to improve for many older adults, in the absence of disease.

"So in this way our ability to learn grows — in things like vocabulary," Olson says. Additionally, every passing year gives you life experience and knowledge. In other words, you become wiser.

2. You're better at relationships. Older adults generally report better marriages and more supportive friendships.They also say they have less conflict with their children and siblings.

Research shows this may be because as we age our abilities to compromise and see different points of view improve.

3. You can be more fit than ever. "Physically, we're the sum of the choices we make," Olson emphasizes. That means it's never too late to start a healthy habit.

Someone who shifts from a couch potato to a fitness nut can be healthier than they were at 25. "I have an 80-year-old patient who still runs marathons. He even ran to his last appointment," says Olson.

Summer 2014

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