Ageism Article #1 – The Prejudice You Are Perpetuator and Victim Of
As a white male, it’s been important for me to study racism and sexism, to understand how I unknowingly participate from the oppressors’ side. Now I want to talk about THE PREJUDICE WE ALL SHARE – AGE-ISM.
– Olders are the last group that it’s still okay for we/ the to ridicule: slow, stupid, smelly, useless…
– Statistics verify the harm age discrimination does to olders: economically, medically, socially, psychologically…
– All biases diminish, demote, reject, discount and serve an untruth: “they are not me, I am better.”
Despite the strides being made against racism, sexism, homophobia, Ageism remains the least recognized and most socially sanctioned prejudice! But here’s the crazy thing, in ageism, we are hating our future selves, for we are all aging and HOPE to join the group we now reject!
As an expert on emotions I recognize the all-important role of self-esteem. Your sense of self-value and place in society is shaped by how you are viewed and treated by others. When that input is negative it can break your heart and your will to be your best. So when you have even unconscious attitudes (intrinsic bias) – Wrinkles are ugly. Old people are incompetent. It’s sad to be old – you can’t avoid feeling bad about yourself when you become an older person.
Prejudice unrecognized is perpetuated, and it’s hard to recognize when you are doing it, but very obvious when it happens to you. My hope is that the prejudice, which everyone will feel and want to be free from, could bring an understanding and reduction of all prejudice. And the more immediate benefit to you is not to deny or fight the natural process of aging, but to accept its challenges and embrace its benefits.
Join me for the next few weeks to explore Ageism and help your future self to be happy at every stage. To adapt Yogi Bhajan’s sutra: Recognize that the older person is you!
Ageism Article #2 –How Does OLD Make You Feel? Unlearn That Aging is Bad!
Does growing old fill you with anxiety or sadness? What do you feel about old people, disgust, pity or nothing at all? How do you feel about your age, mad or embarrassed? About getting old, dread or despair?
These common and nearly universal responses motivated author and activist Ashton Applewhite, to look at her own darkest thoughts of aging and found that her darkest fears were much worse than the facts:
Only 4% of Americans over 65 live in nursing homes.
Of people 85 and up, over half of them can go about their daily activities without assistance.
The vast majority of older Americans live independently until they come down with whatever kills them.
Dementia? Rates are dropping; fear of Alzheimer’s affects more people than the disease.
Sexual activity tends to decrease with age yet retirement homes are full with romance.
Depression? Older people enjoy better mental health than the young or middle-aged.
Why do so few know that statistically people are happiest early AND late in their lives? When Ashton found that the facts tell a very different story than our beliefs and feelings about aging, she went deep to unlearn her fear and loathing of aging. She can best explain her remarkable discoveries to you. Please take 12 minutes to begin turning around your own aging attitudes.
Keep pushing back on your own Ageism as this series continues.
Ageism Article #3 – Get Real – Feeling Better & Dealing Better with Aging
Everyone worries about getting old. Will I have enough money? Will I be alone? Will I get sick? These fears are real. I’ve been sharing with you the facts about aging because the more you know the better you feel about the myths, and the better you can deal with the realities of the years ahead. The biggest fears and myths are: no more sex, loss of independence, loss of health, loss of mental capacity. Regarding the fear of forgetting, remember this:
– Serious mental decline is not a normal or inevitable part of aging.
– Most forgetfulness is not Alzheimer's or dementia and can be accommodated.
– About 20% of people in their nineties seem to escape any cognitive decline at all!
And even as the population ages, dementia rates are falling, significantly. And people are being diagnosed older and older. So what can you do about normal brain aging?
We all know how important it is to stay physically fit. Move your body so blood goes to the brain. Walk frequently. Do yoga daily. Partner dancing tops the list for reducing mental and physical decline!
We must also do mental activity to fend off cognitive decline. Devote 3 hours a day to creative and
mentally engrossing activity. Novelty, complexity and problem solving are key! Learn a new language, play a musical instrument.
What about the positive aspects of aging on the brain?
A 2015 study in Psychological Science studied cognitive abilities in people of all ages and found that
four types of proficiencies didn’;t fully ripen until people were in their fifties: vocabulary, math, general knowledge and comprehension. Scientists, psychologists and geriatricians agree that the older brain holds potential for deep creativity and intellectual potential.
When it comes to emotions, older brains are more resilient. Frontal lobe changes improve our ability to deal with anger, envy and fear. The normal aging brain enables greater emotional maturity, adaptability to change, and levels of well-being. As you mature, you get more philosophical. Things don’t upset you as much. Think of all the knowledge and experience you gain as you age. Not allolder people are wise, but aging definitely offers the opportunity to develop wisdom.
What about the other standard myths about loss of sex, health, independence, etc.? The outcomes
are as varied as humans are. All age-related changes can be understood, anticipated, diminished,
embraced, accommodated so we can all enjoy the tremendous gifts that long life affords. See more
on these topics: Ashton Applewhite, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism
Ageism Article #4 – Hag Geezer Fogey Crone Bag Biddy Codger Coot
It takes one to know one! Ageism is a prejudice against our future selves. It doesn’t make sense to discriminate against a group that we hope to join! So put aside fear and ignorance and learn about the beauty of your older self.
In the 20th century we added an unprecedented number of years to our lifespans, but is the quality of life as good? Surprisingly, yes! In contrast to the doubts and insecurities of youth, growing older
enables us to become more self-aware and confident, less fearful of being judged, more authentically happy. Studies prove that aging isn’t a steady decent into misery; it’s a continuous process of personal development.
Maybe we do slow down, choose more carefully how we spend our time and with whom, but that is because we have finally figured out what matters most and feel free to follow that. Instead of the youthful and middle-aged obsession with doing, we gently segue into the immense value in being.
Sounds spiritual to me! But our culture prizes productivity and paychecks, it values doing over being. So if we choose to enjoy life, connection or quiet meditation we are seen as less “productive” and less valuable to society. Let us define successful ageing by recognizing these social expectations and choosing what feels right for us.
Psychologist Laura Carstensen says, “As we grow older our time horizons shorten and our goals change,” to live in the moment, know what’s important, invest in sure things, deepen relationships and savor life”. She shares her research that demonstrates that as people get older they become happier, more content, and have a more positive outlook on the world in this TedTalk. Watch her 12-minute video to update your view of aging:
If we embrace this natural process, we can be more realistic and optimistic about what lies ahead. The sooner growing older is stripped of dread and apprehension, the better equipped we are to
benefit from the countless ways it will enrich us.
Ageism Article #5 – Push Back on Ageism: Be an Old Person in Training
If you think the topic of Ageism is just for older people, WRONG! Everyone is older than they were, and is constantly getting older. Aging has or will harm every person’s life and sense of self. Other
prejudices influence the effect: affluence buys more health and comfort, older women are currently valued less than older men, experience gained over years is ignored in hiring. Compounded biases
make poor, old women of color the most neglected people worldwide! Young people get it too; heard any attitudes about millennial?You may be in a dominant gender, race, sexual orientation, physical health, religion or social status and never have experienced oppression, but because everyone has or will experience negative,
socialized age-based attitudes and behaviors it can open our eyes to all unfair judgments and treatment. The common experience of aging unites us all. If we dismantle the fear and ignorance around aging we help our future selves and can tackle other forms of prejudice. And it starts with you.
When I was young, “Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud,” helped African-Americans to build self-esteem and push back against injustice. Embracing aging helps us accept and love ourselves with
pride at every age.
Geriatrician Joanne Lynn suggests that any age we become an “old person in training.” How? By ditching preconceptions, looking at and listening carefully to the olders around us, and re-envisioning our place among them. It means looking at older people instead of past them, remembering they were once our age, seeing resilience alongside infirmity, allowing for sensuality, enlarging our notion of beauty… “
See through the marketing campaigns that make you feel bad about your body, skin, hair, health to create billion dollar markets in beauty products, diets, pharmaceuticals. Your discontent makes them money. Embrace grey hair as a privilege, white hair as beautiful. Wrinkles as well earned. When you see yourself as natural and beautiful, no one can shame you and enough women feeling their hot, wise, graceful older elegance will make it the cool thing to do.
The less I fight the changes of aging and embrace the benefits, the more I love my life. It’s a process, takes time, and is SO worth it.
Serenity prayer says it all:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. -Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971).
Some questions to help you understand and change:
- What are some of the assumptions you hold about getting older?
- Where have they come from and what purpose do they serve? Are they fact, myth, belief?
- What are your fears and other feelings about older people and aging?
- What about your age-related self do you reject?
- What can you surrender to that you cannot control?
- What can you do to plan for and take care of your future older self?
- Make a list of all the great things about living long; the opportunities, experiences, and joys.
- How can we make the world a better place to get old in?
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. -“Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann