Choose to be a spurter

A 100-year-old does yoga daily. An 85-year-old runs two miles a day.
A 70-year-old writes weekly news notes for her local paper. A 93-year-old climbs Mount Fuji.
An 85-year-old plays the piano at area nursing homes. A 65-year-old starts a new business.
These are the new elderly. Forget the stereotypes of aging—these people create their own reality.
These are people who refuse to let society put them into little boxes. They do at every age what everyone tells them they cannot do. They have learned how to remain ageless in spite of societal expectations.
And their number is growing.
We admire them. But then in the next breath, we admit that we really doubt we will be able to do those things at those ages. We assume our legs won’t work and our memories will go.
We expect someday to have to be taken care of. We fear senility.
What an astonishing attitude! How can we deliberately turn from the role models we want to be like and set our faces toward the outcomes we dread?
Does it ever occur to us that in these moments of choice, we may indeed be predetermining which of the outcomes will be ours?
Sociologists call this phenomenon “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
The theory of self-fulfilling prophecy has been widely applied to education. When students are labelled as dull or bright, they perform accordingly—regardless of their native ability.
No one knows exactly why this occurs. Is it because the students labelled as “dull” are treated like failures from the start? Are they given fewer opportunities? Or do they pick up subtle negative messages about what they can and can’t do?
Whatever causes it, self-fulfilling prophecy is a reality.
In 1969, Robert Rosenthal sought to further prove this theory by giving a group of elementary teachers a list of “spurters.”
He told the teachers that these bright children had been selected by a new test, and the teachers could expect these spurters to do exceptionally well in the next school year.
And that’s exactly what the spurters did.
In truth, there was no new test and the spurters were picked randomly. Still, they made greater advances academically than their peers who were, by default, labelled as non-spurters.
The prediction of academic excellence made the reality come true.
Self-fulfilling prophecy means that what you predict for yourself leads to behaviour that makes the prediction come true. Understanding the importance of self-fulfilling prophecy is never more important than it is when we face the last third of life.
We cannot afford to fear confusion, dependency, physical incapacity, memory loss. We cannot afford to fear being a burden.
No, we can’t take that kind of risk with aging. The stakes simply are too high.
We all must label ourselves as “spurters.” People who will reach advanced years with purpose and energy, with nimble bodies and creative minds.
Remember, if one person could climb Mount Fuji at age 93, if one person can run a successful business at age 65, if one person has ever defied the odds, it can be done again.
What kind of “spurter” would you like to be?
Write Marie Snider at