The largest demographic cohort ever to walk planet Earth—the Post WW II Baby Boom—is getting “old.”
We know it by the endless stream of ads for emergency-alert systems, catheters, reverse mortgages, hearing aids, adult diapers, assisted living facilities, and the vast assortment of drugs and nutritional supplements aimed at older folks.
We also know it by the promises of “anti-aging,” “age-defying” products, hair restoratives, regenerators, anti-aging dentistry, and more.
Since they emerged into the world, the Boomers generated a marketing boom that continues to this day. And today’s marketers want today’s aging Boomers to worry, fret, and spend both time and money to stop growing old.
Embrace Growing Older
What stops the aging process?
So why would we buy into the concept of anti-aging? Why wouldn’t we be all in favor of aging, since that’s what most of us hope to do?
I say, launch your fight against old-age stereotypes and “age-defying” marketing hype by embracing old age. Just say Yes! and see how far you can go with it.
Did you know?
- Old people are overall happier than young people. Their emotional stability, their ability to handle stress, their mental health, and their sense of well-being just keeps improving right up until the very end of life. Read more in “The Aging Paradox: The older we get, the happier we are.”
Yes, your physical health declines and many of us have health issues that are not going away. However, consider this:
- People with a positive self-perception about their own aging live longer. In fact, research has found that these folks lived 7.5 years longer than those with less positive self-perceptions of aging. Yes, what you think is what you are!
- Folks above age 60 who approach age with a more positive viewpoint suffer much less memory decline. Memory decline was 30.2% greater for those who held more negative age stereotypes!
So, how can you adjust your thinking?
To combat the increasing barrage and cultural reinforcement of negative associations with aging, requires consciously re-programming our minds, identifying, then dispensing with internal scripts, images, and narratives that continually remind us of what we’re losing and how awful we’re feeling.
- Explore “priming” (planting cues in the subconscious mind that influence behavior) our minds with positive self-perceptions of aging may improve both health and longevity. As one group of researchers notes, “when a younger mind is primed, a younger body can accompany it.”
If you’re someone who lives with or cares for an older person, you also have a role.
- Don’t patronize older folks by talking in childlike “elderspeak,” and don’t tolerate it yourself.
- Resist the temptation to do what people can or could still do for themselves, even when they need or ask for help.
Everybody Grows Old
I love these words from Portland, Oregon massage therapist Dale Fauvier.
Adults sag. It doesn’t matter how fit they are. Every decade, an adult sags a little more. All of the tissue hangs a little looser. They wrinkle, too. I don’t know who put about the rumor that just old people wrinkle. You start wrinkling when you start sagging, as soon as you’re all grown up, and the process goes its merry way as long as you live.
People talk about massage therapists being caretakers, and I suppose we are: we like to look after people, and we’re easily moved to tenderness. But to let you in on a secret: I’m in it for the glow.
I’ll tell you what people look like, really: they look like flames. Or like the stars, on a clear night in the wilderness.
Read this interview with social psychologist Ellen Langer on the powerful concept seeming to reverse aging, not by purchasing products or services, but by changing our minds.