About 8 years ago I was facilitating an art program in a retirement residence when one participant stated that she “doesn’t want to get any older”. Another woman quickly responded by saying, “if you’re not aging, you’re dead.”
I was a bit taken aback at the blunt comment but it was undeniably accurate.
At first, the statement sounded harsh and pessimistic, but as the phrase ruminated, I realized that, on the contrary, it was actually a very liberating and optimistic outlook. If the alternative to aging is death, then shouldn’t the word and experience of ‘aging’ be regarded as a positive one?
This positive attitude towards aging is hard to find when we are surrounded by messages that overwhelmingly associate aging with negative connotations. Social media and ad campaigns are constantly bombarding us with anti-aging serums, pills, diets, and gadgets to ‘combat’ the aging process. The irony is that many of these products are aimed at superficial age indicators like greying hair or laugh lines and don’t necessarily support or advocate for healthy aging, which, in turn, is much more likely to extend someone’s life.
Instead of buying “quick fix” anti-aging products, we should invest our energy and effort into maintaining and improving our quality of life from start to finish. This change in priority is not anti-aging, it is pro-healthy aging and the change needs to begin with our outlook on the entire aging process.
If you grow up believing that your purpose and worth expire at a certain age, there is a chance that when and if you become that age, you will submit yourself to this categorization. This way of thinking can threaten meaningful contributions from different age groups, especially for older adults. The notion also places a growth limit on each of us and suggests that our value diminishes as we transition into older adulthood.
Everyone who is 80 years old was, at one point in time, a teenager and everyone who is 20 years old will hopefully live into their 80s and onward. Instead of highlighting our differences or placing more value on one age group over another, we should share our overlapping experiences and life lessons.
If we all identify as aging people, we can find common ground and ultimately empathize with one another. Only then will we be able to work collectively to build support systems that nourish healthy aging at all stages of life.
The Artfull Enrichment Team has a vested interest in creating a world that fosters positive attitudes towards aging because day by day, we are all getting older and…