Throw Misconceptions about Aging Out the Door
I think it was actress Bette Davis who said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.” We laugh but we also know that’s a pejorative statement—both about aging and about gender norms. So, I got your attention, but let’s cut to the chase … ageism.
As author and activist Ashton Applewhite points out, “ageism is the last acceptable American prejudice.” And of course, it is not acceptable, it’s just that we all still tend to participate in it.
Answer nine simple questions on the World Health Organization’s “Ageing Attitudes Quiz.” Chances are, if you read AgeWise King County regularly, you answered the questions correctly. Note that the quiz captures many of the negative stereotypes associated with aging.
Getting older isn’t what it used to be. Maybe it never was—it’s just that we’re learning for ourselves. Read “The aging paradox: The older we get, the happier we are” in the Los Angeles Times—aging and wisdom have great benefits, including “empathy, compassion, self-knowledge, openness to new ideas, decisiveness, emotional regulation and doing things for others rather than for yourself.” In fact, on average, people are happier and more satisfied when they get older than during their stressful young and middle years.
And what a great time to pursue our interests, goals, and dreams! Those of us who are working—whether for pay or as volunteers—or pursuing hobbies or engaging in activities we love find new meaning in our lives.
This year’s Older Americans Month theme—”Age Out Loud”—can be interpreted in a number of ways. I think it presents an opportunity to throw misconceptions about aging out the door and emphasize what’s good about our lives and the world around us.
Older Americans Month has been celebrated in the month of May every year since 1963. We’ve always known it as a time to celebrate older Americans, their stories, and their contributions. The difference with this year’s theme is that it emphasizes the ways that older adults are bold, confident, and passionate. We should serve as an inspiration to people of all ages. Yes, we meant to do that—we are meant to grow old!
It’s time to redefine aging. Many of the organizations in the aging services network are addressing the need for change, including our Aging and Disability Services Advisory Council. Here are a few more organizations and initiatives working toward that end:
- AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities
- Age-Friendly Seattle
- Disrupt Aging (AARP)
- Get Old
- Healthy Aging Partnership
- Mayor’s Council on African American Elders
- This Chair Rocks (Ashton Applewhite)
Happy Older Americans Month to all! Age out loud—help change perceptions of aging by people of all ages.
Contributor David Baker is chair of the Seattle-King County Advisory Council on Aging & Disability Services, which publishes AgeWise King County. He welcomes input from readers via e-mail (email@example.com) as well as applicants for open positions on the council. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.
Originally appeared in AgeWise King County (May 2017).