Doris Carnevali posts on a topic crucial for happiness in old age: tending self-respect in advancing years. She has thought about this from personal experience—she is 100 years old—and writes with a calm, thoughtful approach. Her conclusions are enormously helpful and practical. All the more so because research suggests that the decline in self-esteem that commonly occurs in old age is related to external factors. That knowledge is no comfort to us older people! These external factors are usually beyond our control at that stage of life:
- changes in socioeconomic status
- changes in physical health
- our particular culture (Ageism is rampant in some cultures. Yet research found that in Japan self-esteem rises steadily throughout life, unlike in the US and Germany).
Two methods Mrs Carnevali uses to maintain her self-respect
Mrs Carnevali has not been spared the inevitable blows to lifestyle and health brought by old age. However, she found remedies that she can control. Here’s what she says:
It has taken me decades and the buffeting of my own aging experience, but I seem to have found some ways to retain/ regain self-respect. It seems to have come from:
Doris Carnevali, 16 November 2022, https://engagingwithagingblog.wordpress.com/2022/11/16/tending-self-respect-in-advancing-years/
- honestly examining the deterrents in both environment and life events
- acknowledging/owning changing capacities as a point of departure.
She summarises the changes in perspective that made all the difference to her self-esteem as she grew older and her capacities diminished and her physical world shrank. As a devoted and diligent follower of her blog, I see that she has found self-respect (as well as satisfaction, achievement, and fun) in doing these things:
- Facing up to the reality of the changes that happen in old age: neither denying nor despairing.
- Realising that there is no stopping the decline of body and mind and circumstances. Realising that, by contrast, she did have control over her own response.
- Working to overcome, modify or adapt to the changes in herself and her circumstances.
- Finding achievement and pride in small victories—and hence, self-respect.
A personal response to the threat of diminishing self-esteem
Mrs Carnevali asks what we personally do to maintain self-esteem in old age. That’s an interesting exercise! What do you do? It includes a mindset but that’s not enough. What we need are habits — of body as well as mind.
I do my own thing and so I will duly share.
l started protecting my future self-esteem from the effect of aging 8 years ago when I was 75. My doctor confronted me with a prognosis of extreme old age. I was shocked into examining every aspect of my lifestyle that could influence my health and happiness in the future. And I tried to fix the weak spots one by one as best I could — little things. I still do that. High priority: physical and social health and fitness.
- I watch my language. One of my favourite sayings nowadays is, “… but I have other qualities.” As in, “I mistook a nasturtium for a petunia today, but I have other qualities.” You do too. Though I say this with a laugh, I mean it. Words have power for better or worse. I try very hard not to put myself (or other old people) down for geriatric foibles or mistakes. I challenge people who put themselves down, too. Some “jokes” make me frown. That’s building my self-esteem.
- I carry on with my life work, writing. Feedback boosts my confidence. I grab new opportunities to participate. So I get affirmation from other people. (It’s hard doing it to yourself.)
- Another good thing for my self-esteem is my wardrobe of colourful clothes that I like a lot. Also a rather unrealistic (flattering) bathroom mirror.
- I mix with people who love me and avoid people who make me feel yucky.
That’s enough. What do you do?
Self-esteem Declines Sharply Among Older Adults While Middle-Aged Are Most Confident (American Psychological Association Journal, 2010)Follow Write Into Life