We are becoming increasingly emotionally preoccupied with worries about ageing and trying to look younger is an attempt to tackle ageism according to cognitive neuroscientist and psychologist Dr Lynda Shaw.
Dr Shaw argues we are losing our ability to age with dignity because of the profound negative stereotypes we have of older people and their capabilities, and a tendency to see old people as a single generic group. As a result Shaw believes we are on a constant quest to look and stay young.
“No matter what our age, the pressures of looking youthful and beautiful has meant a fixation with anti wrinkle creams, extreme work outs and plastic surgery in an attempt to fend off the look of ageing and the term of looking and being ‘old’. We have lost our confidence in our own skin – literally. We are so busy trying to delay the onset of ageing to avoid stereotypes that we are increasingly unable to accept and adapt to changes in later life. By denying ourselves the ability to age with dignity we are limiting ourselves. What’s wrong with being happy with the age we are?
“In this competitive world we are praised if we look younger than our actual age as opposed to revering someone who ages gracefully and with dignity. Those who don’t dye their hair the colour they had it in their twenties are said to be letting themselves go. Long gone are the days of communities respecting their elders because of their years, experience and wisdom. In fact the growing lack of importance of the community has had a direct impact on the self esteem of our elders.
“Of course, many get aches and pains, but on the whole there are plenty of older people who love learning, having fun and wonderfully contribute to their families and communities. This is what we need to acknowledge, perpetuate and shout about. Forget the out-of-date stereotypical ideas about growing older. Those ideas are out of fashion, not the people.”
Shaw believes as more people are living to an advanced age, we are going through a period of adjustment. Embracing change means we live more positively. Ageing happens socially, physically and cognitively but Shaw argues that we need to fight the stereotypes that we just wither away and don’t have a place in society other than being a drain.
“My father used to say that he didn’t feel any different as he got older, but he noticed other people treated him differently and he didn’t like it! Wrinkles seem to define us and represent an inability to look after ourselves. Instead good health and successful ageing should be whether we are eating healthily, exercising regularly, avoiding too much sun exposure and coping well with stress.
“Ageism is everywhere and is quite frankly foolish. We should be breaking down stereotypes. Not ageing with dignity is not successful ageing. Isn’t it better to be enjoying ourselves and feeling respected for all we can contribute? Ageing is inevitable, our age is the one thing we can’t change so lets it well.”Last modified: May 22, 2021