Finishing well, making a smooth landing, running a good race, growing old gracefully, these are all descriptions of how we would like to go into the last season of life. Looking around you see examples of older people who seem to be managing this stage of their life with great ease.

My mom is 81 and doing well. She has the normal little things that come up but generally she seems to enjoy life by getting out everyday and interacting with lots of people. In addition, she has develop a habit of not “anticipating grief”. She doesn’t fall into bad thinking or paranoia that can sometime develop as we age.

I hear stories of seniors who struggle with paranoia and bad thinking. As a result, relationships are strained at a time when they really need family and friends.

However, in these two comparisons brain function is assumed to be normal, so what is the difference?

I believe the difference is found in the thinking patterns that are established 20 years earlier. My mom has always tried to see the good in her situation and in others. She established a course trajectory for her thinking pattern along time ago.

The person struggling with paranoia and distrust was never able to do a course correction in their thinking. The distrust manifest itself as paranoia as they aged. If a person struggles with paranoia they are often unable to trust people they love and will gravitate toward strangers in the last stage of their life.

Another difference affecting how we age is social interaction. After asking seniors what they think is the key to staying healthy it was almost unanimous in their response, “stay connected to friends and family”.

Lastly, another difference affecting how we age is having hobbies. My mom maintains a strong interest in music, theater, church, interior decorating, and her grandkids.It seems easy to observe that those who stay connected and have the healthy habit of managing their thinking seem to enjoy life longer.