Why do we change as we get older? Many people think that as we get older, we become set in our ways. We stop changing and growing as individuals. But is that really true? What causes these changes as we age, and is it a good or bad thing? Below, I reveal the life stages that developmental psychologists say you can expect to experience and, more importantly, how to make the most of each of these stages so that you can thrive. Furthermore, I describe some of the physical changes that happen with aging and how to slow their onset.
How to Be Robustly Healthy – both Mentally and Physically
People change as they get older for a variety of reasons.
We accumulate memories as we age, and those memories can affect how we see the world and how we interact with people.
Additionally, our hormone levels change as we age, which can lead to different feelings and moods.
And finally, our interests and hobbies often change as we get older – we may no longer want to do the things we used to do, or may find new interests. All of these factors together create a person who is different at every stage in life.
The trick to living a fulfilling life – filled with adventure, satisfaction, joy, and meaning – is to embrace each of these life stages and maximize the learning potential within each stage.
What Are the Life Stages?
Psychologist Erik Erickson established 8 life stages. The last two stages – middle adulthood and late adulthood – are recognized as prime opportunities to experience feelings of accomplishment and well-being.
Scientists acknowledge that in the last two life stages there can be both losses and gains in cognition. Though information processing abilities may decline, crystallized intelligence that draws upon experience and knowledge may improve.
One of the Life Stages: Middle Adulthood
Middle adulthood, which begins around 40, is for many people the prime earning years.
At this life stage, some people have acquired the social skills and professional aptitude necessary to have a robust career.
Ideally, during middle adulthood, you are able to position yourself so that:
- You can enjoy those with whom you work.
- You can find aspects of your job interesting while also having opportunities for independence and advancement.
One of the Life Stages: Late Adulthood
As a person enters their sixties, they are in a life stage within which they can evaluate the contributions they have made to the world so far. They can ask themselves honestly:
- Have my actions made more of a positive difference in the world?
- Have my actions made more of a negative difference in the world?
- If I were to die today, what would my overall legacy be?
Late adulthood presents an opportunity to be brutally honest with one’s self and to live life with increased integrity and compassion by creating a legacy of kindness and benefit to humankind.
Why Do We Change As We Get Older?
People change as they get older because of specific biological and psychological events.
One major reason is that people have different memories as they get older.
For example, someone in their 20s may remember specific details about a party from ten years ago, while someone in their 70s may remember the general feeling of the party but not any specific details.
- Our brains change as we age.
- We learn new things and form new memories.
- Our hormones change, which can affect our moods and emotions.
- Our physical abilities change, making some activities harder than before.
- We develop different interests and hobbies.
- We see the world differently as we gain more experience.
Life Stages: Our Bodies Change As We Get Older
As we get older, our bodies go through a lot of changes.
But why does this happen?
One of the biggest reasons is that our hormone levels fluctuate as we age:
- For example, the level of testosterone in men starts to decline around age 30, which can lead to muscle loss and decreased bone density.
- In women, menopause typically occurs around age 51, and it is accompanied by a sharp decrease in estrogen levels. This can cause hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
It’s important to stay active and engaged in activities that we enjoy so that we can continue to lead fulfilling lives.
As we get older, our bodies change. We may not be as fast or as strong as we once were. We may lose some of our hair, get wrinkles, or experience skin conditions. But these physical changes are only a part of aging. Just as importantly, we also change mentally and emotionally.
Life Stages: Our Minds Change As We Get Older
Our outlooks and passions shift as age.
For example, we may become less interested in physical activity and more interested in reading or traveling.
Our memories tend to become less reliable as we age.
We may forget things more easily, and it may take us longer to learn new information.
This is because the part of the brain that stores memories declines in function as we age.
Another reason for mental and emotional changes is that our hormones start to change as we age.
For example, levels of the hormone estrogen decrease in women after menopause, which can lead to hot flashes, sleep problems, and mood swings. Likewise, levels of the hormone testosterone decrease in men as they age, which can lead to fatigue and a decreased sex drive. This can affect a person’s mood, appetite, and energy levels.
As people age, they also typically become less interested in things that used to excite them and more interested in activities that are relaxing and calming. This shift in interests and hobbies is partly due to changes in the brain itself.
Finally, our interests and hobbies often change as we get older. This is partly due to changes in our mental and emotional state, but it can also be simply due to a desire for new experiences. For example, someone who enjoyed hiking and camping in their youth may find that they prefer gentler activities in their late ages.
We often find ourselves more drawn to activities that reflect who we have become as people – from reading certain types of books to pursuing specific passions or hobbies.
6 Supplements that Have Been Proven to Help Change How We Age in a Positive Way
If you’re already leveraging the life stages to make the utmost of their positive potential, you still might need to also address the downsides of the life stages.
Cancer, heart problems, and strokes are generally the causes of mortality in the modern world. What these three conditions have in common is that they are largely preventable through lifestyle interventions:
- by sustaining a positive attitude and healthy social connections;
- by avoiding alcohol and cigarettes;
- by eating an anti-inflammatory diet consistently ;
- and by maintaining physical conditioning and mobility through exercise.
A few foods and supplements, in particular, have been relentlessly proven by science to be helpful. Here are six of them:
A breakfast of blueberries can improve memory formation, verbal skills, and even decrease blood pressure. These benefits can occur after just six weeks of eating blueberries consistently. According to the research website Examine.com, “Blueberries increase growth factors in the brain, which allows brain cells to grow and have an easier time communicating. This is a rare effect among food products.”
Did you know that surplus belly fat has been linked to Vitamin D deficiency? Additionally, too-low Vitamin D levels are linked to many age-related diseases, so it’s important to eat foods with naturally occurring Vitamin D and/or get sunlight. A blood test with your doctor can reveal where your levels are at currently and shine insight on how much you might need to supplement. Like most supplements, taking too much can be just as bad (or worse) as not getting enough – so, supplement strategically.
An under-the-tongue Vitamin B12 sublingual spray can be helpful to people over the age of 50 because as we age it’s more difficult for us to absorb vitamin B12 – the danger of not having enough B12 is anemia and a loss of clear-headed thinking. However, there are certain medical conditions for which B12 supplementation is unwise, so ask your doctor first.
High levels of protein intake are connected to many benefits in people over the age of 50, including longevity. If you have a challenging time eating enough protein each day (how much you need depends on your genetic structure as well as your current level of physical activity), then you might want to try unsweetened powders such as whey isolate, hemp, or sprouted brown rice. Aim for 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. But if you have any existing medical problems (such as kidney issues), ask your medical doctor first.
Mature people produce less L-carnitine within their bodies, so supplementation might provide you with some worthwhile benefits – particularly if you’re physically active. Carnitine improves blood flow and encourages better energy use in brain cells, improves muscular control, and aids in fat loss. Carnitine is found within meat but can also be supplemented in capsule form. Ask your doctor about finding the right dosage to meet your unique needs.
Creatine increases your power output – it improves muscle growth, strength, and repair. It probably also helps with cognition in those of us over the age of 50. Creatine supplementation does cause a bit of water retention, so ask your doctor what the right dose is for you and to make sure creatine supplementation doesn’t clash with any of your medications or existing health conditions.
Within Your Lifetime You Are Meant to Have Distinct Life Stages
All of these changes that mature adults experience can be difficult at times, but they are ultimately a natural part of growing up and maturing into adulthood.
Ultimately, life stages help us grow and evolve as individuals and experience the richness of life in new ways with every passing year.
It’s important to remember that everyone changes in different ways and at different rates, so don’t worry if you feel like you haven’t hit all these milestones yet.
The most important thing is to stay positive and embrace the new version of yourself – after all, each stage of life comes with its own unique set of benefits.
It can be particularly helpful to ask yourself:
- So far, what do I like most about getting older?
- What do I like least about getting older, and are there any actions I can do to alleviate those downsides of aging?
Global Aging, National Institute of Aging – https://www.nia.nih.gov/research/dbsr/global-aging
Youth and Vitality Research – https://examine.com/topics/longevity/research/
Understanding Impact of an Aging Society – https://www.nia.nih.gov/about/aging-strategic-directions-research/goal-society-policy
Analysis of Life Satisfaction in Mature Elders – https://populationandeconomics.pensoft.net/article/47192/
Life Stages of Adulthood – https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-psychology/chapter/reading-adulthood/