The lead sentence of an article in today’s Washington, DC’s favorite “newspaper”, The Washington Post, goes like this: “What can be done about negative stereotypes that portray older adults as out of touch, useless, feeble, incompetent, pitiful and irrelevant?” In all fairness to the Washington Post, the article was produced independently by Kaiser Health News, an “editorially independent news service” of the Kaiser Family foundation, and found its way into today’s Health and Science Section. The byline shows Judith Graham as the writer.
The long, three column article reiterates all those stereotypes that we can easily fight off if we simply take care of ourselves in ways I have written about for the last 211 weeks. Obviously, the problem is both a mental and physical one. A few months ago, I referred to a passage from Maxwell Maltz’s well known book, Psycho-Cybernetics where he suggested that we could “think ourselves old”, simply by personally accepting those very perceptions about aging, as true. So, think young.
Physically, we can avoid many of the outward characteristics of aging by exercise, eating right, getting plenty of rest and sleep, and standing with be best posture we are capable of, so we look, feel and act alive and well.
Here’s an example from the article. The Chief medical officer for AARP Services had been hit by a car and after undergoing a long and painful rehab, found that strangers would treat her as helpless because she was limping and using a cane. Hmm, does this mean that they would open a door for her, or maybe offer to help her in some other way. Anyhow, she says that she would come home feeling terrible about herself because of the way she was treated. Really? Their Chief Medical Officer?
Hmm. Seems to me that the appropriate thing to do would be to say “thank you” to whoever tried to help her, and go home feeling grateful that someone made the effort. Ah, but maybe that’s just our AARP in action. Seems I’ve written about their attitude about “ageism” before. I think that maybe an institutional attitude makeover may be in order.
A point I will make here is that we are as old as we allow ourselves to be. Most of the stereotypes associated with aging can be delayed or eliminated altogether if we make the effort to take care of ourselves and take responsibility for our own health and fitness. Yes we get older. Yes some of us are affected by bone and muscle weakening disease — some of which may be avoided by the remedies suggested above. Sometimes we find ourselves using a cane or even a walker. You’re not a victim of other people’s perceptions — as long as you don’t let yourself be one.
Most of the rest of the article was about what others can do to change the way they perceive older adults and the way we respond to it. It seems to make us the victims of the way others think about us. Are you kidding me?
What’s far more important is the way we perceive ourselves and what we are doing for ourselves to eliminate the things that go into making up those stereotypes in the first place. It all starts with the way we’re thinking and is followed by the way we move, eat, breathe, rest, and how we carry ourselves.
NOTE: The planned article for today about the depth of our personal commitment to our own health and well being as we get older, will appear next week. If we make a strong commitment to our own health, we won’t ever need to feel like the victim of anyone’s perception of us, and we won’t need to give a darn about those perceptions anyway.
Thank you for reading.