What do you think about aging? It’s better than the alternative, right?
I started listening to Dr. Becca Levy’s new book, “Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Well and How Long You Live.” She is a leading researcher on the psychology of successful aging. Her research shows the connection between our beliefs about aging and our health and well-being as we age. Negative age beliefs impact our longevity by as much as 7 ½ years.
You know that I am all about positive aging and I share this with you through my show and my posts. But I thought it might be helpful to raise your awareness to all the negative, ageist remarks and behaviors that are prevalent and accepted in our culture. Awareness is the first step to change. It is one thing to say that we have a positive outlook about aging. It is another thing to recognize when we might buy into or ignore a negative ageist stereotype.
So here goes…
Have you ever said this to someone, or had it said to you?
- “You look good for your age.”
- “Getting older is not for sissies.”
- “That was a senior moment.”
Have you noticed the amount of anti-aging products that are hawked in the media? Aging comes with wrinkles. Aging comes with changing hair color and texture.
When I turned 40, my co-workers decorated my cubicle with black balloons, over-the-hill signs, Depends. I did not think that was funny then and I do not think it is funny now. Why do we associate milestone birthdays with jokes about decline and incontinence and forgetfulness?
I hear people say, “60 is the new 40.” I say NO, 60 is the new 60. 70 is the new 70! Why not embrace the age we are? We have gained life experience. We have learned to overcome obstacles. We are more active than our parents or certainly than our grandparents were at our age. There is an Instagram page where people are posting a picture and claiming their age. They are including a short writeup about themselves. Check it out @sayyourage_loudandproud and post your picture.
How is ageism different from some of the other isms? It affects everyone. No matter your race or gender or religion or sexual preference, everyone ages. Yet it is the least spoken about and it is hidden in plain sight.
Everyone is getting older; from the moment we are born we are getting older. If we continue to ignore the “old” jokes and stereotypes, young and old people will internalize the message that getting old is bad. Negative beliefs about aging have been shown to have negative consequences on our mental and physical health.
Doris Roberts, who portrayed Raymond’s mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond” ad this to say about how older people were portrayed on TV. “[Seniors] do not see themselves portrayed and when they do, it’s in a demeaning manner. They’re referred to as “over the hill,” “old goats” and “old farts.” “Ugly ways of talking about us.”
This coming week, I challenge you to recognize the negative aging beliefs and stereotypes you see and hear and say to yourself. You will be surprised at how often these occur.