“Birthdays are good for your health. The more you have the older you’ll get,” so goes the quote—from Anonymous.
Well…that Anonymous is onto something, something important to all of us—by embracing positive attitudes about getting older, amazingly, we can live longer and healthier.
Important research conducted by Becca Levy Ph.D. of Yale University “…has found that people who internalize positive age stereotypes lived up to 7.5 years longer than those with negative age stereotypes.”* Simply viewing old age and aging in a positive light boosted cardiovascular health and people lived longer. The impact is greater than never smoking or exercising daily. (Read more here.)
Reading Positive Aging picture books with a child teaches us:
- Older adults are actually a diverse and interesting bunch—often with tremendous knowledge, inner strength and creativity. (See books by Patricia Polacco and My Hippie Grandmother by Reeve Lindbergh.)
- Normal aging is NOT about stereotypes like decline and death, illness and dementia or loneliness and grumpiness. (See Mr. George Baker and The Teacher Who Would Not Retire.)
- Late life is most often a time of happiness, satisfaction and growth. (see The Hello, Goodbye Window and The Creative World of Grandma Prisbrey.)
- Aging is a lifelong process, both normal and natural. (See Miss Rumphius and Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom and Wishes)
- An individual of any age deserves to be treated as a valued and respected person. (See Grandmama’s Pride and Crouching Tiger.)
- Older adults possess skills and strengths because of their age and experience. (See Something About Hensleys and My Teacher.)
- People of all ages have much in common and much to gain from intergenerational relationships. (See Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays and My Abuelita.)
Many picture books focus on the warmth of the relationship between grandparent and grandchild, and the child helping their older relative. Developing empathy is certainly a good thing, but these stories reinforce the belief that late life encompasses only decline and dependence.
From a very young age we are confronted by negative views of aging—those trumpeted by TV, magazines, movies, books and even people we know.
Plant the seeds for late life health and happiness
Search out children’s books with positive images of aging to expand narrow views about growing older and challenge ageist attitudes.
Click on the book titles listed above to read my book reviews and ideas for discussion with kids. The books mentioned here are just some among many—see the resource list and upcoming reviews and additions.
Sign up on this blog page to receive posts (weekly at most) via email or RSS. See upper right of page.
I recently linked this post to “Big Hair and Books” blog’s Way Back Wednesday–“Linking all things old, but still worthy of our attention.”
*See my blog post “The Power of Our Beliefs“
Friedman, Barbara M. Connecting Generations: Integrating Aging Education and Intergenerational Programs with Elementary and Middle Grade Curricula. Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.
Larkin, Elizabeth and G. Patricia Wilson. “Images of Old: Teaching About Aging in Children’s Literature.” Journal of Intergenerational Relations Vol.11, no.1, (2013): 4-17
McGuire, Sandra L. Growing Up and Growing Older: Books for Young Readers. An Annotated Booklist of Nonageist Literature (Pre-school-Third Grade). 2011.
Societal Education About Aging for Change. http://dccenteronaging.org/projects/seachange/