Yelland says looking for positives helps in maintaining health as people get older.

By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension news service 

MANHATTAN, Kan. – A smile or words of encouragement may seem like small things, but Erin Yelland knows they add up.

“We know from research that having a positive outlook on aging actually adds 7 ½ years to your life,” said Yelland, a specialist on aging with K-State Research and Extension. “If you have that positive outlook, you’re able to embrace aging and look for the positives. And it’s going to add years to your life.”

Yelland, in fact, has come up with an acronym that supports her belief that living with positivity is the healthy path for most. The acronym is SMILE BIG.

“One of the things I heard when I was young was that older adults are supposed to have gray hair, sit in a rocking chair, knit and stay home…” Yelland said. “That’s really quite the opposite of what older adults are able to do. Many are able to stay active and engaged and not fall into the stereotypical mindset that older adults are supposed to be sedentary and stuck at home.”

Yelland said K-State Research and Extension agents across Kansas are working to help older adults remain independent, exercise and maintain their living spaces in ways that help them remain healthy.

A couple key resources include:

“We do a lot of community-based education on healthy aging, and how to support caregivers, and how we can embrace aspects of positive aging,” Yelland said. “We are also doing work in communities to help make sure that older adults are considered when we are creating policies and practices in our communities.”

“Extension really values the lives of older adults and the big and important roles that they play in our lives and our communities. We’re working to enhance that and make sure that older adults are not the throw-away generation.”

For more information and guidance on aging well, contact your local extension office.