Gary Tetz

For a “recovering pessimist” like myself, few things are more annoying than being told that optimism is some sort of magic potion. But that’s exactly what recent research, reported by McKnight’s, suggests. 

In the study of more than 150,000 women across diverse racial and ethnic groups, those with higher optimism levels were more likely to have longer lifespans. The most optimistic might live exceptionally long, even until — gasp — age 90. 

Or, in an alternate interpretation of the same data, being optimistic will eventually kill you. 

My sincere apologies. The not-recovering-very-fast part of my recovering pessimist personality just took control of the keyboard for a moment. I promise it won’t happen again. 

Anyway, after all we’ve been through, personally and in the long-term care profession, it can sometimes feel like we have long COVID of the soul — a deep exhaustion and ennui that seems impossible to shake. So trying to adopt a consistently brighter perspective is definitely a worthy goal.

But personally, I find an exhortation like “never give up” to be even more practical and motivational than a blanket call for a constantly rose-colored mindset. We could call it augmented optimism, or optimism-plus. Maybe it’s all just semantics, but it helps us move beyond attitude to action, and ideally creates habits to match. 

Several years ago I wrote about a young hiker I saw navigating a treacherous trail with a prosthetic foot. He told me the story of how he lost his lower leg in a horrible motorcycle accident, then ended with, “But hey, whatcha gonna do?” His positive realism and gritty, unrelenting resilience left me feeling woefully inadequate, but truly inspired. 

I think of him a lot, along with the dozens of seniors I’ve talked to who have surmounted challenges in life I find unimaginable. Universally, in moments from trivial to tragic, the gospel they preach is always the same: Never give up. When times are bad and realistically could get worse, they teach us to always keep our feet moving regardless, and to cheerfully accept whatever comes next.

That’s optimism-plus, and it just might be the ultimate antidote to long COVID of the soul.

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a two-time national Silver Medalist and three-time regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program, as well as an Award of Excellence honoree in the APEX Awards. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a writer and video producer for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.