AFS Blog

Rethink. Reimagine. Reframe. Aging.

Posted on May 22, 2018 | by Linda Albert
Rethink. Reimagine. Reframe. Aging.

What better time to rethink, reimagine and reframe aging than Older Americans Month? Our population is aging, yet ageism persists. In an increasingly Age-Friendly society, the question is why? Researchers suggest ageism persists because it is not publicly recognized as a problem, not considered a policy issue, and is perceived to be less serious than other forms of discrimination ( ). The consequences however, are very real. Ageism fosters social injustice, unequal treatment, and societal exclusion.

Ageism begins with an implicit or unseen bias. The internalization of aging stereotypes begins in childhood; children adopt the aging-related attitudes and stereotypes of their familial and cultural environments. Adults often harbor misconceptions about aging. They may view older adults as competition for limited resources and an aging population as a threat. They may have conflicted feelings about aging, viewing older age as a time of increased wisdom, but also of increased deterioration, or may assume that late-life outcomes are due exclusively to individual life choices.

These misconceptions fail to consider that we are all in this together. Building an Age-Friendly community that endeavors to create an environment supportive of lifelong well-being, is a collective responsibility. Stanford University aging expert Laura Carstensen notes that our physical and societal infrastructure has been created for young users. Long life is a new phenomenon. As a society, we have never lived this long before, and we now need to reconfigure, revamp and adjust accordingly.

How can we counter ageism?

  • Increase opportunities for intergenerational interaction. CBS News recently featured a story about the friendships forged as older adults become pen pals with third graders learning the fading art of cursive writing.

  • Remember that we are all better off when we are inclusive.
  • Recognize that what surrounds us shapes us; society and social policies impact individual aging outcomes and we have a collective responsibility to address aging issues.
  • Language, images, and actions have impact. Think about the messages being communicated and focus on the positive aspects of aging.
  • Speak up when confronted with ageist language or practices. The person, business or organization may not be aware that their words or practices are ageist. Rather than ignoring ageist comments or acts, view the situation as an opportunity to respectfully increase awareness.
  • Knowledge is power. Be prepared to question assumptions and challenge notions about aging by being informed.

Research has shown that those with positive perceptions of their own aging tend to live longer, so this month, let us celebrate aging and Older Americans. The future is a time for improvement, and the challenges of an aging society can be addressed with thoughtful and creative interventions. Envision and become part of the solution, and together we can disrupt negative perceptions of aging.




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