Chula Psychologist Recommends Mindsets for Aging Gracefully


What is the Aging Gracefully concept? How can one face aging gracefully? Chula Psychology lecturer has the answers for those who are entering the aging society to have confidence in their physical and mental health.

Thailand has entered into a “senior society” completely since 2021 with over 20 percent of the population aged over 60 years old.  Although longevity is a sign of good health, growing older is also fraught with emotional pressure, such as concerns about changing one’s outward appearance, fear of losing the ability to take care of oneself, or fear of becoming severely ill in old age.

As we age, many people may notice physical changes such as significantly increased wrinkles, sagging, freckles, melasma, etc., as well as other mental, mood, and socialization changes once they reach the age of 60 and over. Old age is what most people are afraid of.

Aging Gracefully

“Let’s stop using the word anti-aging. I’m pro-aging. I love growing older. I want to grow old with wisdom and elegance, with dignity, with enthusiasm, with energy, and I don’t want to hide from aging,” said Jamie Lee Curtis, a 63-year-old actress who recently won the Oscar (2023) for Best Supporting Actress from Everything Everywhere All Once at The Radically Reframing Aging Summit in 2022.

Her appearance on the Oscar stage considered the stage of the highest achievement of the career of an actress, confirms her statement that aging does not impede health, happiness, and success in life.

Many people may have heard the term “Aging Gracefully” or “Pro Aging Movement”, especially in the international media, which is a beauty trend.  Many celebrities including famous actresses declare that they are satisfied with their aging appearance and insist on not having plastic surgery or covering up their aging signs and wrinkles.  These include other celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Drew Barrymore, Naomi Campbell, Reese Witherspoon, Penelope Cruz, Hallie Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Kate Winslet, Sharon Stone, Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, etc.

The term Aging Gracefully is often used to refer to people who, despite their age, still look good, look strong, beautiful with age, and are happy living their lives. Although it sounds quite negative to only speak about the obsession with beauty and appearance, Aging Gracefully also means the increased wisdom and enhanced attitude that comes with each life stage.

Dr. Nipat Pichayayothin
Dr. Nipat Pichayayothin

Dr. Nipat Pichayayothin, Chair of Developmental Psychology and Specialist at the Center for Developmental Psychology and Intergenerational Relations (Life Di), Faculty of Psychology, Chulalongkorn University, said that in developmental psychology, psychologists found that no matter at what age, the difficulty, ease, and speed of adapting oneself to change is always different and depending on each individual. This could be seen as either problematic or not, but from the experience her experience, Dr. Nipat found that the elderly can adapt well.

“Some people who know to take care of themselves, exercise regularly, eat nutritious food, and if they can afford to take care of their appearance, then they can slow down the change. The trend is that most people will not wait for aging to happen and then solve the problem, but will start to look for information from their working age about various aging sciences.”

Aging Gracefully in More Dimensions than Beauty Matters

Dr. Nipat  also said that the subject of Aging Gracefully can be seen in many dimensions because not everyone values outward appearance. For example, some actors do not wear makeup at all or leave their hair white because they feel satisfied with natural changes. Therefore, the initial question should be if the definition of the word “gracefully: is similar or different for each person, because each person has different goals.

“Some people may check themselves in the mirror every day because they love their appearance and taking good care of themselves, which brings them pride. But, some people may not pay that much attention to their appearance. Many people’s goal in life is not to be beautiful, but to assign value to other things instead,” Dr. Nipat said.

So, Aging Gracefully does not only mean still looking young and beautiful when we are getting older but also that we are living the best life, being physically and mentally healthy with age by taking proper care of ourselves.

Successful Aging: Ideas for Desired Old Age

Another interesting idea that Dr. Nipat mentioned is that Successful Aging means being able to maintain one’s identity even in times of change. This identity is based on the idea of how you see yourself and what kind of elderly person you want to become.

“Successful adults will gradually change to match that ideal because aging is not a surprise to you. It is something that everyone knows will happen. And naturally, most adults tend to adapt. But if the change happens suddenly, catching you off-guard or you start to get feedback from the outside, shaking your core, it can cause frustration, confusion, and distress as well.

We need to go back to each case to see what the source of that insecurity was. Perhaps we will come across it in the form of being dishonored, or devalued, by being dependent on their children people when they used to be independent.  So, it’s the loss of identity that affects the state of mind.”

Dr. Nipat added that the advantage of the X and Y generations who are about to enter an aging society is that they have more access to information. We have seen many examples of successful and unsuccessful seniors in the past, so, this brings us back to the question of what kind of seniors we want to be in our own eyes and of those around us.

“Not comparing ourselves to others is the rule of thumb for well-being.  This rule also applies in the matter of aging. Everybody is born different, but I believe that as we age, we can accept this fact more easily, and it will not be an important issue.”

Good Mindset for Aging

Having a positive mindset towards aging is important for moving towards graceful aging, and here are a few examples of positive and helpful mindsets.

  • Embrace change – As we age, we are faced with many more changes, both physical and mental. Embracing these changes can help us think positively and focus on what we can still do, rather than spending time worrying about what we used to do when we were stronger and younger.
  • Never stop learning – Learning something new and experimenting with new experiences will make us feel active in life and can create engagement with others around us.  This will help us to maintain the goal of aging gracefully and happily.
  • Maintain social networks – Having a conversation, and interacting with family members, relatives, friends, and other individuals in society can help us maintain a positive attitude with emotional support and encouragement.
  • Gratitude – practicing showing gratitude to yourself and others around you, appreciating the preciousness of living and growing older, past experiences, and being satisfied with what you have by focusing on the positive energy in life can help us maintain a healthy mindset.
  • Take the best care of your body – staying healthy by exercising, healthy eating, and having regular check-ups will help us feel good about ourselves and still remain self-reliant even as we age.

Positive mindsets towards aging are, in a nutshell, optimism, connection with the community, focus on what makes us happy, and pride in ourselves so that we can live longer and enjoy every life scenario. Therefore, understanding changes will help seniors to adapt better.

The sense of kinship and warmth found in the Chula community is priceless and a treasure worth keeping.

Prof. Dr. Pornanong Aramwit Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Chulalongkorn University

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