We all have conscious and unconscious beliefs and ideas about how an older person (no matter your age) looks and acts. Many of these beliefs about aging are influenced by what we see in the media, some are formed by interacting with older people—grandparents, great aunts and uncles, seniors in the neighborhood, or at the store. And, some come seemingly from nowhere in particular, we simply think it to be true.
I invite you to take a couple of quiet minutes to check in with what you truly believe about what aging looks like to you. Grab a piece of paper and pen. Close your eyes and ask yourself what words come to mind when you think of an older woman. No hurry.
As research tells us, chances are more than half– roughly 60% – of the words you wrote down were negative. Most people have ingrained negative age stereotypes; it’s what we see (until very recently) on TV and in the movies, everywhere older adults are portrayed or represented. Some of these beliefs include: grumpy, slow, frail, confused, lonely, angry or bitter, forgetful, lost in the past, and less than.
What research also tells us is that the beliefs we hold about older adults strongly influences how we age. Even if you are currently healthy, holding negative beliefs about how you will be when you get older sets you up to become exactly as you believe. This is shown to be so powerful that when generally healthy seniors were simply reminded of age stereotypes then given a test, they scored in the same low range as folks who have dementia.
Now for the good news! You have the power to re-choose in every moment of your life. I believe this with all my heart and soul, and I have lived by it every day since I was a child.
Once you have made the list of your present beliefs about aging, let’s take a clean piece of paper and write down some positive traits about getting older. Take as much time as you need.
My list includes: wise, resilient, empowered, experienced, selective, emotionally complex, capable, accepting.
For the next few days see how many new words you can add to your positive-traits list. By looking at your list of positive traits everyday—on the fridge, above your desk, you can change the projection of your aging by changing what you view aging looks like and seeing yourself as embodying these positive traits and thriving as you get older.
We create our future by what we believe today. Imagine being vibrant in every moment.
Until next time… Be vibrant!