One of the most disturbing pieces of research I’ve read recently about dementia reported that how we think about aging and the stereotypes associated with it can play a crucial role in whether we develop the disease.
The research stated that “we are what we think” about ourselves. And there isn’t much positivity about growing old in our culture. It isn’t where anybody wants to be.
The anti-aging health industry certainly doesn’t help. We’re constantly bombarded by advertising directed at fighting aging. It’s presented as an ugly, undesirable thing, and we’re told that it must be slowed.
Right – as if there were something we could do about it.
As we all know, the more interaction you have with other groups, the less stereotyping occurs. It’s a simple situation where more exposure fosters more familiarity and fewer assumptions and biases.
But in recent years, interaction between younger and older people has decreased, and a Yale School of Public Health study concluded that this has had a negative impact on older adults’ perceptions of themselves.
In case you haven’t experienced it yet, the work world isn’t welcoming us with open arms either. As I’ve said in many of my pieces, if you lose your job after the age of 50, it isn’t going to be easy to find another one.
Age discrimination in the workplace is the only form of discrimination that goes completely uncontested in the U.S.
And while the treatment of minority groups in our culture has been improving, that hasn’t included the elder population. Most seniors report feeling more excluded, lonely and stigmatized.
But new research indicates there are ways to fight back against the negativity associated with old age, and it starts with us.
First, train yourself to think of age as a number, not an experience cast in stone or associated with anything negative. It’s been proven that just thinking this way has a positive impact on our overall well-being.
Stay curious, active and social. If you don’t use your social skills, your mental and physical health will decline.
Forget about calendar age. Fight the clock by leading a healthy lifestyle. You, not the calendar, are responsible for both your physical and your mental health.
Everybody’s heard the adage “you are what you eat.” Well, we are also what we think. The best weapon we have against stereotypes and narrowmindedness is right between our ears. Use it or lose it.
We’ve come so far in our lives and worked so hard. Let’s not give it up to insensitive advertising, ideas about aging or people who have no understanding of who we are.
We’re the boomers, damn it! Think it and act it!