Is there a war against the aging? The answer is “yes,” and it is not subtle. Whether it is through the media, our culture or our conversations—the aging population are rarely respected in our society. They are ridiculed as being ineffective and are often the butt of jokes. You know the wisecracks. “Don’t drive like a grandma” or other remarks criticizing elders as being technically unsavvy. Outside of the jokes, prejudice against the aging is a real problem and it has a name. It is described as “ageism.” Ageism is a stereotyping of groups of people based on age and is just as odious as racism and sexism. Dr. Robert N. Butler coined the term to define bias against the aging in 1969. He explained even then how ageism is not just encountered at the personal level, but at the corporate level. Ageism is a form of prejudice encountered by seniors and sometimes people in their 40s as it is often believed that once you exit your 30s that you are not as fruitful. Older people are greatly marginalized and are made to feel unaccepted since they are rarely portrayed in the media in a positive light. Assisted Living Federation of America President and CEO Richard P. Grimes said that ageism needs to be eliminated on all levels. “Prejudicial attitudes towards seniors deny them the independence, dignity, choice, and quality of life that these individuals deserve.”
“We need to transform on how we view people in general and this comes from transforming the mind.”
To combat the stereotypes, many seniors are teaching classes, taking dance lessons and getting their advanced degrees. They are starting new businesses and expanding their horizons beyond the retirement label. The concept of the aging is linked to being decrepit and this is an absolute absurdity. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” Mark Twain wrote. We need to transform on how we view people in general and this comes from transforming the mind. Here are ways you can fight the negative stereotypes when it comes to aging.
Start changing your own views on aging.
People have contradictory views on aging since many adults believe getting old is a bad thing. An associate professor at Yale School of Public Health said negative stereotypes regarding aging comes down to a public health issue. “What people aren’t aware of is that they have the ability to overcome and resist negative stereotypes,” Becca Levy told the Wall Street Journal. Most of the Western society views aging in a bad light, so we need to resist the temptation to fall into this trap. Education is key in avoiding these common pitfalls because older people actually experience more life satisfaction and a greater sense of well-being. Rather than listening to the media–start talking with other people who are retired. They will give you a better sense of what is going on.
Believing in negative stereotypes may affect health.
Maintaining cynical stereotypes regarding getting older may impact your memory performance. There is emerging evidence that negative stereotypes exist about aging within our culture that might not just affect others’ perceptions about the abilities of older adults, but also the performance of those being stereotyped, the Oxford Journal found. People with negative views were also more at risk for hypertension, stress, depression, were less productive and were less likely to inquire about preventive care.
Recognize where discrimination comes from.
When we are more aware of discrimination we can filter out how marketers pigeon hole people who are in a certain age bracket. Take notice of the commercials, the television shows and the movies that you watch. Notice how older people are portrayed. Once we all become more aware of the messages from the media, we can sort through what is fact and fiction when it comes to aging universality.
Have a positive outlook.
Let’s face it, we all will get older. As we are more bombarded by certain views every day, we need to have a more positive view of ourselves. The more positive your perception is on becoming older, the healthier you will be. Have a positive mindset towards aging before it begins and your prognosis will be better. Take more interest in the activities and the things you enjoy as this gives you a sense of hope. Find interests that extend beyond your career so you have something to look forward to in retirement. Some things you can look forward to is not worrying what other people think, being more comfortable in your own skin and being more authentic.
If you are hitting retirement age, get involved in the community and with your family. Don’t sit on the sidelines anymore and speak up. Just because you are older doesn’t mean you can’t participate. If there is a gathering, force yourself to take part in it. Show people that you are a vital member of society and that you are independent. Go on trips, volunteer and reach out to others who might not be as ambitious as you!