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Cognitive Dissonance and Aging

Cognitive dissonance is the general topic in this blog, a favorite concept of mine. I have spent a lifetime reducing discomfort caused by dissonance, partly because I was raised in an Army family. My five siblings and I moved with our parents to a new post every two or three years:

-Bamburg, Germany

-Sendai, Japan

-Columbus, Georgia

-Seoul, Korea

-Faribault, Minnesota (where my father retired and I attended St. Olaf College)

The kind of upheaval an Army brat experiences is not for the faint of heart. The mental toll from adjusting to new cultures and languages, new schools and curricula, new friends and neighborhoods is incalculable.

I have no doubt battles to handle abrupt changes in my early years have made me stronger, but am I tough enough to crack the contradictory codes around aging? It’s a condition younger Americans often ignore, disparage, fear, and stereotype. For instance, despite my wrinkles and slower gait, I’m an energetic, positive person and I think my brain is functioning as well as it always has. I’m a better driver today than I was in my forties, yet some car rental companies won’t let me borrow their cars because of my age. I may walk a little slower and a bit hunched, but I play a good game of golf on the toughest of courses. Why are younger people so surprised by that?

True, our bodies age. The thin skin on my arms and hands bruise from minor injuries so I might appear vulnerable. I can’t run or jump since I had a knee replacement, and while I go through cataract surgery and adjustments thereafter, my eyesight is sketchy. I get cramps in my toes and legs at the oddest times, and my digestive system is off-kilter. And yes, I use a hearing aid.

Though I’m glad I didn’t suffer a major illness for more than seven decades, the stage four melanoma hit was tougher for an older person to fight. And even though I may have beaten the disease with immunotherapy and a dozen other remedies, my adrenal glands gave up the ghost after all that bodily turmoil, and now I’ll be popping hydrocortisone for the rest of my life.

Optimistic, I remain. My upbringing and my careers in education have surely made me adept at resolving contradiction, but by managing the culture clashes of aging, I’ve become the queen at resolving cognitive dissonance.


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