Mindful Ageing: notes from a psychotherapist at 77

Dr. Andrea Brandt

By Nancy Mendelson
SeniorPlanet.org

That we age is inevitable.  How we age is largely up to us.”

At “77 glorious years old,” psychotherapist, speaker and author, Dr. Andrea Brandt, PhD, MFT, has just come out with her third book, Mindful Aging:  Embracing Your Life After 50 to Find Fulfillment, Purpose and Joy. Long recognized as a pioneer in the field of treating anger issues, Dr. Brandt is the also author of 8 Keys to Eliminating Passive-Aggressiveness and Mindful Anger: A Pathway to Emotional Freedom.

Having read her newest book and spoken with the Doctor by phone at her office in Santa Monica, California, it’s clear that her power to empower is the result of her own confrontation with the changes and challenges that come with older age and with the acceptance that life is finite.

Senior Planet: Was writing this book a result of your own personal aging journey?

Dr. Brandt: Well, I came from a very matriarchal family.  My mother and grandmother thrived and were productive well into their nineties. My grandmother even got divorced a second time when she was 90 because she felt her husband was holding her back. So, my upbringing and positive views about aging certainly contributed to my belief that life after 50 can be as meaningful as you make it.  

As witness, take the 340,000 people across the United States who answered a survey asking them to measure their overall sense of well-being on a scale of 1 to 10. The results showed that people in their late 40’s and early 50’s reported the least satisfaction, while those age 70 and beyond were more likely to say they were happy – even compared to 20-somethings. The sense of satisfaction climbed with every decade after 50. In addition, levels of stress dropped sharply with age, and sadness stayed at about the same level from 18 to 85.

Senior Planet: In your book you point out that architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, was at his most prolific between the ages of 60 and 90. Can this be true for all of us?

Dr. Brandt: There’s no magical age at which we need to abandon our dreams and surrender our possibilities. I read a statistic from psychoanalyst, Joyce McDougall, back in the 70’s where she said that people spend 98% of their time avoiding and denying mortality, and I thought about that.  I looked at myself and the people around me and realized that we go through life as though it’s not going to end. I began to feel ‘what the hell are you doing…what are you waiting for?’ I think people need to wake up at an earlier age and start taking responsibility for how they want their life to be and what they want to accomplish.

SeniorPlanet: How do we do that?

Dr. Brandt: Through what I like to call realistic positivity, a mindset that helps us to grow better as we grow older. It’s seeing and accepting what is now – both in our inner and outer worlds—and then putting our focus on what we would love.  Research supports the notion that older age does not have to be a period of withdrawal, deterioration, and decline, but that – as with earlier stages of life – we can continue to improve and “become” who we authentically are and want to be.

Mindfulness is essential for developing a mindset of realistic positivity… both for gaining the space we need to step out of our outdated and limited perceptions, so we can see life more realistically and for shifting out of our survival physiology, so we can focus on the positive, the direction we want to go.

SeniorPlanet: Your book is filled with exercises and tools to help your readers find fulfillment, purpose and joy, but can you offer up a few tips now for our readers now?

Dr. Brandt: Make gratitude your foremost attitude; use empowering self-talk; find inspiration in role models; be proactive and resourceful – create a vision for your life after 50; and explore the internet to spark your imagination.  It’s never too late to move in a new, more positive direction. That we age is inevitable.  How we age is largely up to us.

Senior Planet: And the last question is, what does aging with attitude mean to you?

Dr. Brandt: It means aging with purpose and empowerment!

For more information, visit www.abrandtherapy.com and connect with Dr. Brandt on Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter and Psychology Today.