Rebranding Aging: How Ageism is a Problem That We Can Do Something About

I am observing that ageism is all around us. As a spirited boomer, I feel grossly misunderstood and misrepresented. Why am I looked at as a social liability? Why doesn’t society attach more value to my “cohort” – one that possesses valuable knowledge, perspectives and ideas that can strengthen our communities?

Some of the less flattering Myths:

  • As we age we “slow down”, become less productive and can no longer learn new information.
  • As we age we lose control of our bodies and our minds and, inevitably, deteriorate.
  • The aging process results in identity, knowledge, skills, and success becoming “fixed” and stagnant.

I disagree! Serious damage is done when people apply one standard to an entire group of people.

Negative attitudes about aging and can result in significant negative consequences on the physical and mental health of older people. Being confronted with these negative attitudes and expectations permeates into the emotional wellbeing of those being subjected to them. We don’t want to walk in our communities and extended universe feeling like a burden to society!

When we feel that we are valued less, we are put at risk of depression and social isolation. We now know that older people who hold negative views about their own aging do not recover as well from disability or illness.

Shifting our attitudes towards aging.

The Positive Aging movement (PA) is a movement aimed at addressing the negative value of ageism within prevalent social beliefs. PA is a movement toward a society that celebrates the aging process.

PA supports people of all ages in:

  • Achieving their full potential
  • Fostering better integration between generations
  • Respecting and encouraging engagement, culturally and socially, throughout life.
  • Creating a society where equality, independence, participation, care, sell-actualization, and dignity are the prime objectives.

Renowned Doctor Deepak Chopra has described the criteria for an older adult’s experience of well-being to include:

  • Positive relationships
  • Self-compassion
  • Self awareness
  • Ability to accept change
  • A sense of humor

That sounds more like the picture I hold of myself as I grow older.

Joining the movement to re-brand aging.

But how do we change our attitudes about aging? The FrameWorks Institute, as research partner with eight national age-focused organizations*, is doing great work to create a better public understanding of older adults’ needs and contributions to society. Their focus is to use communications and outreach to drive more informed conversations about aging and its implications for our communities. America, according to FrameWorks’ strategies, needs an attitude adjustment. Their research shows that aging is misunderstood and that the misconception creates obstacles to productive practices and policies. As the research partner for the Reframing Aging Initiative, FrameWork’s social science research arrived at some reliable, evidence-based recommendations for reframing this social issue.

Importantly, they propose to redefine aging itself, and elevate awareness that ageism exists. Through this important campaign, we can all look through a new lens at a beautiful aging society. At CircleTalk, we have taken these findings to heart, and have re-committed our messaging to reinforce an empowering portrayal of aging adults. Our society’s perception of aging makes a direct impact on aging individuals, and we hope our voice can push the needle in the right direction.

Aging is not synonymous with disease or disability. With the right structural and social supports, and positive public perceptions, older adults will continue to be seen as purposeful, valued and healthy. This is how I intend to live and to be regarded – as an asset to my community and to society.

* AARP, American Federation for Aging Research, American Geriatrics Society, American Society on Aging, Gerontological Society of America, Grantmakers in Aging, National Council on Aging, and Hispanic Council on Aging.

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