By Ruth Griffiths
North Americans spend billions every day fighting the inevitability of aging. We are all getting older and it doesn’t look pretty but, as Woody Allen said, “Consider the alternative.”
Of all the forms of discrimination in our society, “ageism” is the most prevalent. Ageism is defined as discrimination against persons of a certain age group. In general, we have “a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment.”
Ask an actor to portray an old person and they will shuffle along, complaining about their lumbago and shouting “speak up Sonny.” It’s not an image that we strive to achieve. Most older people agree with Rodney Dangerfield, “I don’t get no respect.”
We have painted an ugly picture of aging, but if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find that there are proven benefits to getting older.
As you get older you tend to care less about what other people think. I see this every day in my fitness classes for older adults. Younger women tend to be more competitive during a workout, but the older women are there to maintain health and have fun. They support and encourage each other, rather than trying to be the strongest and fastest in the exercise class.
Similarly, as you age you tend to get to know yourself better and focus more on what you want for yourself. Of course not everyone over 55 is totally satisfied with their life.
But those who age successfully learn to love themselves. We look in the mirror and proclaim, “You’ve come a long way, baby!”
After a certain age we stop trying to be someone else just to make others happy while ignoring our needs. We embrace the freedom to be ourselves.
We may come to realize that our true value and worth has little to do with how we look or what we do in the world, and everything to do with who we are at the centre of our being.
Contrary to the stereotype of the grouchy old man, studies have shown that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s. We actually experience less stress, possibly because we learn to “let go of the small stuff… and everything is small stuff.”
As we age we leave behind the emotional rollercoaster of our younger years and learn to enjoy life for the treasure that it is.
One of the stereotypes of aging might actually be true. We become wiser with age, possibly because we have more life experience.
A University of Michigan study found that older people are better at reasoning when it comes to social dilemmas and conflicts.
When presented with various stories about conflict, they specifically are more adept at understanding different perspectives, suggesting compromises and coming up with several reasonable resolutions.
When it comes to aging, “resistance is futile.”
But resisting ageism is worthwhile and necessary.
Start with yourself; tell yourself each day that it is not just OK but desirable to become older.
Stop thinking of aging as a disease and see it as a natural progression of life.
Embrace change and the wonderful things that are going to happen in your life.
Ruth Griffiths is the former editor for Rural Roots and a long-time resident of Prince Albert.