Do you blame old age for the aches and pains you feel today?  Have you excused your bad memory because ‘it’s old age?’  Ever wondered how these simple thoughts or loud excuses impact the picture you have of yourself, or how others view you, as well as how they begin or continue to view what they consider ‘old age’?

Yesterday a colleague (50’s) remarked how much his body hurt ending with ‘oh, it must be my old age!’  My immediate reaction was negative, he wasn’t old and yet the remark created a negative image about aging, more so since he’d spent the weekend playing hockey.

Negative or Positive?

We have such a negative attitude toward aging, much of what we see and say about aging is like a forewarning of bad things to come.  It’s a loop, we say it, see negative images in the media, and so we believe it.  But where do we get this idea that aging is awful?  I’m sure we all know people who are active, healthy and happy throughout their later life.  I remember a lady who told me her 80’s was the best time of her life, she didn’t have much but for the first time ever she was the only person she needed to consult when making a decision. That not only made her happy, but she was very social for the first time ever!

Where did it come from?

So when did we start drinking this Kool-ageism? I believe we absorb it from a very young age, from family, through media and it is permeates our western culture as a whole.  Aging is represented as a difficult, that wrinkles are bad and there is nothing else we can expect. All we can hope for is spending lots of money on wrinkle cream, pills and other medications to keep our aches and pains away, while dealing with all the other evil things that come our way as we get older and feebler!

This belief that as we age we become useless, that we are a burden is so untrue, and yet we ourselves continue the myth.  The things we say, create a self-fulfilling prophecy.  We say it, we believe it and our family and friends also buy into it.  We need to change how we frame aging, we need to think about what we are saying and perhaps figure out what the real feeling is –rather than’ my knees hurt because I’m getting old’, rephrase ‘My knees hurt because I played hockey at the weekend, without properly warming up’.

There is good stuff!

There are so many good things about aging that we should be embracing.  As we age, we have more time to do the things we love, most of us no longer have others to worry about, we can enjoy these amazing years and look back on how we have survived and thrived from the lessons we have had on our journey.  Look at everything we’ve learned, how can we share our wisdom, maybe through stories or by supporting others.  One lady I know continues into her 90’s to support elementary kids struggling with their reading.  Another has taken up dog walking. She realized it was time to get fit, and so has a couple of dogs she walks each day thereby keeping her accountable, and getting a small stipend to support her pension.

You are seen as who you play….

When we are complicit in supporting the stereotype of an older person not only are we reinforcing the negatives of aging but we are also reinforcing our own mindset that tells us getting old is difficult and uncomfortable.  Research has shown that the negative and positive implications of stereotyping affect our attitudes, performance, decision making and the overall holistic health of us all!

Take charge of Change!

As elders in society we are in a great place to change cultural views. Two thirds of those who have ever lived beyond 65 are alive today, it’s up to us to begin another cultural revolution.  As elders we have enormous social and economic impact, we purchase, we volunteer, we support causes that are near and dear to our hearts, many of us enjoy full, amazing lives.  Let’s ignore society’s perception of us as less valuable and demonstrate the social implications of ignoring the positives, and show society new ways to think about aging. Let’s change the face of aging.