Recently I came across a study entitled “Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging” (Levy et al. 2002 – apparently Becca Levy has a new book out entitled Breaking the Age Code, which I have not read yet). The abstract states: “This research found that older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging, measured up to 23 years earlier, lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging. This advantage remained after age, gender, socioeconomic status, loneliness, and functional health were included as covariates.” As Spock would say: fascinating!
Because America is such a youth-oriented (perhaps even youth-obsessed) society, we tend to have negative perceptions of older people and of aging in general. Yet aging is part of living, and a truly biocentric philosophy should do justice to the full span of life. To be sure, there are things one might not eagerly look forward to (health issues, losing loved ones, etc.), just as there are things one might not fondly look back on from one’s early life (bad decisions, foolish actions, etc.). But on balance there are many positive opportunities for flourishing and prospering as one gets older: opportunities to engage in lifelong learning, to master new skills, to pursue a long-delayed avocation, to complete passion projects, to deepen one’s relationships, to become a grandparent, to travel, to tend one’s garden literally or figuratively, to impart knowledge to younger generations, to reap the compounding effects of wisdom, and so on. The last of these is especially relevant to philosophy as a way of life, because there’s no inherent limit to the acquisition and practice of wisdom.
Live long and prosper, indeed!