In a culture that glorifies youth and shuns age, it’s no wonder cosmetic products and procedures that promise to defy aging are globally projected to separate us from $271 Billion U.S. dollars by 2024. Not surprisingly, most of the products that promise to restore our youth are nothing more than that—expensive promises. Even more radical ‘age-defying’ approaches such as plastic surgery have limitations and expiration dates. We really cannot afford to accept the age-defying messages. We need to be the generation that embraces positive aging.
Positive aging doesn’t mean we reject looking our best; it just means we recognize the beauty that comes as a result of aging.
An Age-Defying Culture Leads to Age Discrimination
Even more sinister than preying on our insecurities about aging for a big profit, the continual reinforcement that aging must be denied at all costs has other serious consequences. Our rejection of aging is evident in the workplace where the majority of older workers have either seen or experienced discrimination based on age. Studies have also demonstrated that negative attitudes about aging can affect our health and well-being.
Many Adults 50+ Use Denial to Cope with Age-Defying Messages
How do individuals 50+ deal with the pressure to stay forever young? Research suggests we may feel 10-20 years younger on the inside than our chronological age. It is not surprising that refusing to embrace our actual ages is a common strategy for many older adults. However, telling ourselves, we’re as young as we feel is associated with some risks.
A 2003 Australian study involving 45 to 55-year-olds found that many of the participants thought they were too young to start planning for retirement. As a consequence, many faced the risk of a bleak financial picture in their future.
In an interview with Ruth Katz, Risk Management Expert Robert Meyer agreed “that it is hard to get people to think about the future.” Meyers explained the lack of future planning in aging by pointing out that even though we are now living longer, our brains haven’t caught up with the need to think about our lives thirty or forty years from now.
When we compound our denial of aging with our potentially limited abilities to think about the future, we’re setting ourselves up to overlook other opportunities and challenges related to aging. In addition to the need for financial planning, we also need to think about the nonfinancial aspects of aging.
Aging Can Offer New Possibilities and Opportunities
Aging should be a natural process, and it can be an exciting period of our lives—if we plan for it and embrace it. As we age, we have new freedoms to explore what really matters to us. We are no longer as constrained by the expectations of others. We can take on new and meaningful roles.
As we continue to age, we do need to anticipate changes in our physical strength and abilities. We may also need to prepare for additional health issues and possible mental decline. However, with proper planning, it is possible to delay or mitigate some of the more challenging aspects of aging.
How do we break free from denial and start embracing our next chapter with anticipation and responsibility? Here are three ways to get started:
- Embrace your real age. After I turned sixty, I was embarrassed to tell people my real age – I was ashamed of being ‘old.’ I thought about how and why I felt ashamed of my age. I decided for myself that I don’t have to accept negative views of aging. I now proudly tell people I’m 67 years old. I like my age and believe that every year that I’ve lived has given me additional insights and experiences I can share with others.
- Find older role models: I have been fortunate to find wonderful older in my community who have served as role models for me. One was 98-years-old. Another woman is in her eighties. These women have helped me see my future in a positive light. I’m excited about the years ahead.
- See your future: I found a fun app called Oldify you can download on your phone. The app will take your picture and ‘age’ the photo 20, 30, or more years. If you cannot imagine yourself as an older adult, try using a visual tool like Oldify. I’d say it’s a pretty good ‘reality therapy’ tool.
What are some strategies you are using to embrace the future with optimism and responsible planning?