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How the Noetic Sciences Contribute to “Conscious Aging”

by Kathleen Erickson-Freeman

happy couple

Image by Ward

I am currently reading “The Healthy Aging Brain: Sustaining Attachment, Attaining Wisdom” by Louis Cozolino. In the book, Cozolino states that the predictors of cognitive health in older Americans include education, intellectual stimulation, an engaged lifestyle, strenuous activity/exercise, good sleep, low cortisol levels (less stress), a sense of self-efficacy, and leisure activities. These qualities of life all point to the importance of taking on new challenges, reducing stress wherever possible, and enjoying living and loving. This has been affirmed by health and healing practitioners and mental health experts in all areas of health care and reported extensively in the media. Yet for some reason, the message generally assigned to the brains of older Americans is that they have earned the right to do nothing.

From the perspective of noetic science, there is much wisdom available on the subject of aging, including the latest research in the cognitive and neurosciences, the spiritual and psychological issues of aging, theories of human development for the third age of life, the field experiences of many health and healing practitioners garnered over decades of work, and the perennial wisdom traditions. There are also the tools and practices of transformation and mindfulness that IONS has researched and developed during our 39-year history and begun to apply to the challenges and opportunities of aging.

It is fascinating to bring all of this forward under the programmatic umbrella of “conscious aging” for our members and friends, many of whom are dealing with issues of aging in their own lives right now. As Director of Elder Education at IONS, I’ve been heartened by their growing enthusiasm for tools to support the transformation that comes with of aging, and throughout the past year, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with our research and education staff to produce four of our most highly-attended teleseminars (which are now available for download):

This is just the beginning. So much more is in development, most recently, a new eight-week telecourse on conscious aging. Each Wednesday evening beginning in January, IONS members and nonmembers will come together with consciousness visionaries in a highly interactive community. We’ll reflect on our individual process of aging and engage in juicy dialogue on some of the most salient issues related to aging. (Look for an article on IONS’ Conscious Aging program in the next issue of the Journal for Transpersonal Psychology, and in the December issue of Noetic Now.

My wish is that more people could learn how all of these ideas, tools, and practices can help reduce the suffering that can accompany aging and ignite the potential for positive, passionate, and soulful aging. The shared experience of dealing with these issues can connect us to our whole human family; rather than aging separating people from each other, we can become more connected and supportive of each other.

What are you doing to stay engaged and vital? How are you learning from the next generation? How are you giving meaning back to your children, grandchildren, and others? Are you balancing the need to be a vital contributor to society while reducing the physical stress in your life? Join our community as we explore these important questions.

  • John Campbell Dec 30, 2011

    I have to share this page with my sisters.....

  • Angela Murphy Jan 04, 2012

    Really looking forward to the "Conscous Aging" class starting on January 18th!

  • John Campbell Jan 21, 2012

    I enjoyed being a group participant for a change last Wed. Just the fact that we were able to meet as a group from all the various locations was pretty amazing in and of itself!

  • Kathleen Erickson-Freeman Jan 22, 2012

    Thanks so much John. Yes I agree it was amazing to connect together with people from 33 different states and have a share dialogue about Conscious Aging. Look forward to our next session together.

  • Jeanine Broderick Dec 13, 2012

    I am delighted to see work being done in this area. We already know so much. We know that a positive attitude delays death by 10.7 years (on average) but more importantly (IMO) delays the onset of debilitating end of life diseases by 18 years (Grant study aka Nun study).

    Then we know that aging is a state of mind. There are several studies that demonstrate that how we think about not only aging but our own age dramatically impact our experience.

    My favorite saying is "Aging is optional and I am not choosing that option" It is working very well for me. I did not have children until I was 29/31 and I have folks say to me all the time "You must have been very young when you had your children" It makes me laugh. I am 14 years younger now than I was 14 years ago.

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