I turn 50 this year, and I’ve never been happier. I feel like I am still in my 30s. Many experts say the secret to staying young is to act like you are young. Harvard psychology professor Ellen Langer showed us that acting young can reverse the effects of aging and improve physical health. Acting young may just be as important as diet and exercise.
In a group study in the 1980’s, Dr Langer gathered a group of men in their 70s and 80s to spend a week in a resort hotel that was decorated as if it were in the 1950’s. Everything in the hotel, all of the decorations and furnishings, even down to the black and white TVs were made to look like a time warp to days long gone by. The programs on these black and white TVs were showing sitcoms and news from the 1950’s as well. It’s like they stepped back into a time machine.
Before this study started, these elderly men were measured for there strength, dexterity, and flexibility. As part of the study, Dr Langer told them they must try to act as they did when they were younger. They were asked to embrace this experiment and imagine themselves like they were 30 years in the past. On the TV in the hotel lobby, there were sports programs with Johnny Unitas and Wilt Chamberlain. Soon after the experiment started, they elderly gentlemen were talking about the sporting events they used to get excited about. They found the spark in their eye that hadn’t been there in a long time.
After a week had gone by, these same men that walked originally into the hotel with crooked backs, were walking a little taller. They felt younger. They were passionate about the same events they used to be. Some of them even played a game of touch football in the field as they were waiting for the bus to pick them up after the experiment. And as part of the study, new observers were asked to guess the age of the men after the week was over. Not surprisingly, because they were acting younger, they guessed a younger age than what they actually were. Their strength measurements, dexterity, and flexibility also had improved after the experiment as well.
So how will I celebrate my 50th birthday? I am going to Comic-Con dressed up as a comic book hero. Comic-Con is a comic book convention that is popular with the younger crowd. I am going with a group of teenagers and their parents, and I will be in full costume. I am going as a comic character known as Dead Pool. I will be a checkered Dead Pool.
Last month, I wrestled on the floor with my 8 year old nephew, and in the following week I traveled to Seattle as I loudly cheered for my nephew as he won his state championship in wrestling for his age group. In 3 weeks, it will be Easter, and I will dress up as the Mad Hatter all day and strike up conversations with whoever catches my eye. I will embrace my inner child.
I am told I look younger than my age. Is 50 the new 30? Well I am not sure about that, am fatter than I was back then. But I don’t have to act like it.
What would you be willing to do embrace your inner child?