Guest blog: Ageing. That’s life.

by Natasha Ginnivan

Popular culture would have us believe that once we are forty, we are more or less washed up and on a downhill trajectory. It’s easy to agree with this view if our thinking is aligned with cultural conditioning that sees age as a category (of young or old) rather than a continual process across the life course.

We live in a time where there is optimal knowledge, networks and shared experiences. This provides us with the opportunity to use a broader lens with which to view the world and ourselves. Paradigms are not only shifting but also morphing. Age categories have become blurred as we realise that this thing called ‘ageing’ is a life course matter.

We count no matter what our age is.

Things do not necessarily come to a screaming halt after our 50s or 60s. In fact many of us will live long active lives until our 80s or 90s. So why do the myths, attitudes and stereotypes about age persist?

It’s one thing to insist that we should not have stereotypical attitudes about age, but another to explore some of the factors that contribute to these pervasive ageist attitudes.

Ageism, culture & attitudes

Our individual worldview is arguably the combination of our personality, preferences and the internalised cultural layers that we grew up with. These are strong influences in our psyche. If we grow up in a culture that continually reveres youth, and diminishes the value of the old, we run the risk of internalising ageist views. This makes it hard for ourselves when we move from ‘in-group’ (young) to the ‘out-group’ (old, and “over the hill”). If we have adopted the view that age is a category of either ‘young’ or ‘old’ we become disheartened when we no longer belong to the ‘revered group’. This leaves us feeling diminished and irrelevant. Yet it is due to our own thinking.

Live longer: 5 ways to be positive about ageing

Studies have shown that those with more positive self-perceptions of ageing tend to live over 7 years longer than those with less positive attitudes. They also enjoy better functional health as they reach their senior years. So, start peeling back some of these cultural layers that hold negative messages about age with these five things:

  1. Understand that ageing commences from the time of conception and continues until death (not from an arbitrary number like 40, 50 or 60 etc).
  2. Ageing is a natural part of the life cycle.
  3. Be honest with yourself about your age. Embrace it, and flourish within your current stage of life instead of wishing for past stages (reminiscing is one thing, fixating on the past is another). Live in the present.
  4. Let go of ideas of wanting to look, seem, dress or act ‘younger’. Also, don’t give compliments by stating someone looks ‘younger’ than they are, or doesn’t ‘look’ their age.
  5. Live a full life. Be friends with people of all ages. Being younger is neither better nor worse than being older. Realise that no matter what your age, you will continue this journey, god willing, until you are at the age when you need the help of your great-grand kids to blow out your birthday candles!

If you’d like to know more, contact Catherine Rickwood – specialists in providing knowledge and insights on the burgeoning over 50s market.

Photo by Lucas Gruwez on Unsplash

 

About the Author

Natasha Ginnivan

Natasha Ginnivan is a postdoctoral fellow in the fEEL Lab - feltExperience & Empathy Lab based at the UNSW School of Art & Design whose research is focussed on the experience of ageing and societal attitudes towards ageing. Natasha’s PhD (with the Centre for Research on Ageing, Health & Wellbeing, ANU) research investigated cross-cultural attitudes to ageing and was supported in-part by the Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR, UNSW).

Catherine Rickwood is solutions-focussed, working with innovative organisations keen to improve customer and employee insights and empathy to increase their success in new markets, build loyalty, and increase innovation. She does this using a co-design process that engages employees and key stakeholders to create collaborative solutions. Contact Catherine to discover how her services can support your organisation to harness the changing demographic reality.

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