I was recently contacted out of the blue by a company that offers wellness products for healthy aging. Someone there had read a number of my (R)aging with Grace posts and figured out how I characterize my “third trimester” of life, using humor and awe as a matter-of-fact approach to aging. Let’s be honest – aging positively takes just as much hard work as life’s first trimester – without the morning sickness of adolescence, of course.
Source: Pexels: Marcus Aurelius
This company is planning a so-called “pro-aging” event in the Big Apple and has invited me to serve as one of their potential panelists. I say “pro-aging” because – to my delight – their philosophy is to get rid of the word “anti-aging”. I was intrigued and wholeheartedly agreed with them on a Zoom call a few days later.
if you think about it antiaging is a morbid term, though used liberally to market every beauty and health product known to man. The unfiltered truth? Not aging is a nap. So why should you adopt the term rather than “anti-growth”? After all, growing means LIVING.
Everything is relative
Here’s how I see it: welcoming old age means continuing to grow, using the gifts, life lessons, and scientific research you’ve already received. If you don’t move, you turn to stone. Sobering. Every bit of food you eat (good or bad) is like medicine that your body uses in different ways, and now is the time to use it wisely. Not funny, but logical. If your body is lacking certain things that enable good health, there are many wellness products that can help. The work is paying attention to all of this instead of accepting that it doesn’t matter what you do anyway.
Stereotypes abound when talking about the stages of life. When you’re young and inexperienced, what could you possibly know about the big picture – so you’ll be written off until you reach the true “adult age” when you should know better. And if you’ve reached the age of 55 or older (now you get slapped in the face with “Hey Boomer” replies every time you say something that younger generations prefer to ignore), you’re also reduced to a category.
bottom line: Ageism is alive and well, promoted by those who need to take this sacred thing we call life and boil it down to a label.
Analyze your own experience of age discrimination
NPR Life Kit’s Andee Tagle asks, “What springs to mind when you think about aging? Is it wrinkles and gray hair? Technical problems? Quirk, aching bones, or hearing loss?” While acknowledging that age really is just a number, she also explored how we personally think about aging in terms of how it affects us on a behavioral, psychological, and even physiological level influence that we could not even begin to fathom.
Experts agree that older people with positive perceptions of aging perform better physically and cognitively than those with negative perceptions. They tend to be more likely to recover from a severe disability, they retain better memories and yes – they even walk faster and live longer.
Prevention now means changing the way you live think about aging, along with the other endeavors you make with diet and exercise. “It’s easier said than done to break free from negative aging beliefs,” says Tagle. “From anti-wrinkle creams to ads mocking seniors, age stereotypes are all around us — and their impact is far more than superficial.” most tolerated and institutionalized forms of prejudice, and goes on to say that a recent United Nations study suggests that half of the total population has age attitudes.
Characterizations of Agesim
Does it hurt to even READ this? You bet it does. Because ageism can rear its ugly face in job opportunities, housing, and even healthcare. She quotes Becca Levy, Yale researcher and author of Breaking the Age Code: How your beliefs about aging determine how long and well you livewho encourages everyone to change the way they think about aging by embracing more positive aging beliefs — all leading to what she calls “age liberation.”
Levy says to get to the bottom of your own belief system, try to write down every portrayal of aging you encounter — not just what you see on the go, but in commercials, TV shows, or even conversations with your own health professionals. What about your health insurance company, who may tell you that from a certain age certain diagnostics are no longer justified because you would probably not survive the disease anyway? Okay – they don’t quite say it that way, but it’s implied. “This can uncover the areas in your life where explicit and implicit bias might lie,” she says. “Challenging the negative narratives is really important.” This can include how you observe how people speak more easily or loudly to older adults than to younger people.
In my own experience, I am always amazed at how “savvy adults” are portrayed in TV shows and movies. Those of you old enough to know or remember it The Twilight Zone Series knows that Rod Serling was preoccupied with two themes that ran through his shows – war and mortal fear. Ironically, Mr. Serling died quite young, at the age of 51. His thought-provoking screenplays portrayed people aged in their fifties who made deals with the devil in order to live longer.
Recently, however, my husband and I have been watching old sitcoms like Cheers, where each cast member in their late 30s and 40s was getting upset that life was passing them by in such a short time. How about a spin-off series how Frasier’s father was considered “older” at age 62 when the show started with Frasier Crane being forced to take him along with his old lawn chair and little dog Eddy ” record”?
Are things changing? Could be. “Older” actors like Tom Cruise, Judi Dench, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Mirren, Tom Hanks, Samuel L. Jackson, and Gary Oldman (not to mention the world’s timeless Sean Connery and George Clooneys) aren’t used to portraying doddering old men People in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. So maybe Hollywood gets the message. It’s either that or the people who write the shows (other bosses) are older and know the difference.
“Like any other group, older people are not a monolith,” says Tagle. “Don’t assume that every grandpa in your life has the same interests. Referring to Levy’s studies, Tagle says it’s important to build a diverse and nuanced portfolio of positive influences of aging in your life. But you can’t do that when you’re hanging out with your peers. When you do this, you are truly robbing yourself of the richness and depth of wisdom that different generations can offer you.
If you’re about my age and take the attitude that you’re in your early third trimester, you’ll find that often it’s ageism that makes being old difficult, and not the aging process itself. How often do you see people who are much younger than you have “senior moments” when they can’t find their car keys or forgot an appointment?
The more we challenge negative aging beliefs, the less tight their grip will be, Levy says. Her advice, no matter your age, is to name age-related behavior when you see it. “It could seem like you’re challenging your co-worker’s old-timer joke, talking to your siblings about how they treat your grandparents, or blocking your parents from using age-related language on themselves,” she says.
I love the way David Bowie talks about aging: “Aging is an extraordinary process of becoming the person you were always meant to be.”