Aging in an ageist society

We are all aging in an ageist society.  How many times have you said to someone, “I’m getting old; It’s tough to get old” or have heard your friends make statements like this?  How many of you have said or heard these things when you were in your 30s?  In a society where the fastest growing population is the 90-plus age group, perceiving the 30s as old leaves a lot of time to be old.  When we were all in our teens we couldn’t wait to get older and be adults.  When early adulthood arrives we then want to get older so people respected us because youthfulness is often perceived with inexperience.  Something happens at that age of 29 where it seems nobody wants to get older anymore. 

Apparently it is all downhill after 30.  Oddly enough, we are taught to respect our elders since age supposedly equates with wisdom, but nobody actually wants to become an elder themselves.  Unfortunately people don’t realize that saying the ma’ams and sirs are not the primary way respect should be shown to this age group.  The jokes in greeting cards, children’s cartoons, etc. all portray the opposite of what we teach our children about respecting our elders.  It is easier to laugh than to reflect.  
It’s often difficult to embrace our own aging.  It is the fear of the unknown and the realization that, at some point, life will not go on forever.  Reflecting on one’s life and realizing that you have been alive for 30 years tends to frighten people.  It’s the “glass is half full.”  Perhaps the perspective should be that one could have more than 70 years left to live after the age of 30 and that 30 is just the beginning.  Be happy with the life lessons learned thus far to make the next 70 years even better.  

I recently became a grandmother at 43 years old.  I was astonished at the reaction of my friends because I wasn’t old enough.  Age is just a number; it’s chronological and nothing more.    On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve heard people say that women in their 40s shouldn’t wear bikinis;  they are too old.  It’s confusing that at 43 someone is too old for one thing and not old enough for another.  Me? I’m one bikini-wearing Grandma and proud of it. 


Who's old?

The problem of self-acceptance of old age, comes from our own environment. Negative stereotypes focus on it, create a negative image of what we can live in old age or even earlier: when we began the process of aging. The parameter that defines when we're old for something and also when we are too young for it, is delimited by society too; so, some role that in a society is for the elderly, in another society is not. Therefore, roles we want and we can adopt, must be determined by our own taste, responsibility, capacity and capabilities, not be driven by social stereotypes, often negative.

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