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You Can Help Seniors By Using Positive Psychology

Erma Bombeck, the late author and newspaper columnist, once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and I could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” I remember reading that quote many years ago. The quote struck me then, and it stays with me today, as it exemplifies the way I wish to live my life.

Bombeck's basic philosophy was simple: Give it your all. And isn't that the foundation of the fitness industry? Every day, we give all of our energy to our members, seeking the resources to help empower them to live life to the fullest so that they can enjoy the quality of life they desire and deserve.

There are many ways we can make a difference. We can focus on gaining the tools needed to give older members opportunities to improve their health and enjoy life to the fullest. Or we can help younger people or staff members find greater purpose in their work and inspire them to accomplish more in their lives.

The key is to remember that we have the power to change the way people around us see the world and themselves. One of the ways to do this is through positive psychology. This emerging field involves the study of positive emotion, positive character and positive institutions. Some researchers believe that positive psychology can create lasting change, helping people overcome negative emotions to be happier, more engaged individuals. If so, the benefits may go even further.

Several years ago, a Yale University study found that those who had a positive outlook on life could possibly live 7.6 years longer than those who did not. By including positive psychology principles and programming in your settings, you can help your older clients achieve a more positive mindset.

The need for this form of programming will continue to rise because, according to the World Health Organization, depression will be the second-leading cause of premature death by the year 2020. By helping influence the outlook of others, not only will you be adding years to their lives, but you'll also be adding life to their years. In turn, this added vitality might encourage these mature adults to give their all every day.

So, what can you do to help your older clients keep a positive outlook on life? Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series, sums it up by stating that negative situations are a reality, but it is your attitude that makes a situation positive or negative.

“It's time for you to realize that you are in control of how you think and feel,” Hansen says. “No one else on earth has this power unless you give it away.”

By helping your older clients create a positive state of mind, you help them achieve results that will keep them coming back for more.

But let's not limit this type of support to our older clients. What about kids and ourselves? By being more involved in the lives of our children and grandchildren, we can also have an impact on their well-being.

Let's not stop with clients and family, either. What about the health and well-being of our staff? Should this be a primary concern to all of us? We can help staff members improve their lives by nurturing an environment that supports healthy choices and promotes quality of life and longevity.

No matter how we look at things, life has only two certainties: birth and death. How we live is everything that happens in between. We have the power to touch the lives of people around us and to change the way they see the world. How? By using every single bit of talent we have and by giving it our all every day.

Colin Milner is chief executive officer of the International Council on Active Aging. An award-winning writer, Milner has authored more than 100 articles on aging-related issues. He can be reached at

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