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Resiliency and Longevity

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by Al Siebert, PhD

Some people handle life’s setbacks better than others. Life’s best survivors are resilient, hardy, cope well with difficulties, and gain strength from adversity.

Resilient older adults are accustomed to having things work out well. They feel optimistic and self-confident when coping with rough situations. They read new realities rapidly, adapt quickly, are psychologically flexible, tolerate ambiguity, use creative problem solving, understand others accurately, trust their intuition, and handle pressure with humor. The stronger their self-esteem and "life smarts," the less vulnerable they are to cons, threats, criticism, manipulators, and quackery.

Research into the psychology of aging shows that psychologically resilient adults cope well with an aging body. When they lose friends or loved ones they express their feelings in an open, healthy way.

Learning is the key to handling change. Resilient individuals get better and better every decade because they have a child-like curiosity, ask questions, explore, want to know how thing work, and learn valuable lessons in the school of life. Resilient adults are happy rather than hostile. They forgive instead of holding grudges, and are more playful than serious.

Work is very important to resilient adults. They are less likely to "retire" because they appreciate the benefits of doing important work. The life sequence for people who die after five or six decades is: schooling, then work, then leisure. People who live longer blend life-long learning with working and leisure.

Events experienced as stressful suppress immune system functions, thereby increasing vulnerability to diseases and illnesses. Resilient older adults are more stress resistant than their less resilient counterparts; they are less likely to experience frequent anger (either expressed or inhibited.) Their stress resistance comes in part from seeking and cultivating pleasant experiences. They enjoy many friendships and have good relationships with people of all ages.

Longevity research is showing that adults with psychological resiliency age more slowly, live longer, and enjoy better health. A strong inner spirit can carry an aging body a long ways.

Resiliency can be developed and increased at any age, but it can’t be taught. A longevity program for developing psychological resiliency must avoid standard "training" methods. The program must be based on a developmental model that facilitates self-managed learning, individuation, and the actualization of inborn abilities.


Dare to Be 100, by Walter M. Bortz II, M.D.

The Fountain of Age, by Betty Friedan

Love and Survival, by Dean Ornish, M.D.

The Survivor Personality, by Al Siebert, Ph.D.

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