Close your eyes and imagine someone who is “old.” What images does this word conjure up? Do you see frailty, sadness, or people with memory loss? For most Americans these are the images they see. But why?
Getting older isn’t the end of one’s life; it’s a chance to embrace more of life. Aging should be seen as a grand adventure, not a slow march toward death.
Geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas believes our attitudes toward aging exacerbate some of the problems the senior community faces. He sees seniors as entering a new phase of life, something he calls “post-adulthood.” Thomas argues that the senior years can be vital years of self-discovery and adventure, given the chance.
But embracing your age also means that aging Americans have to stop chasing their youth.
“‘You’re as young as you feel, and I feel like I’m 22 years old.’ That’s not good, that’s not right . . . and the reason it’s wrong is it doesn’t allow you to be who you are,” Thomas explained to TheWashington Post. Instead of seniors pretending to be in their 20s, Thomas wants seniors to embrace their true age with the same energy and enthusiasm that would be expected of a 22-year-old.
Thomas points out that believing old age is a bad thing can lead to dementia, depression, and other maladies. The key to aging, in his mind, isn’t denying what’s happening, but refusing to view age as a burden. There are 80-year-olds who run marathons. There are 90-year-old grandmothers who make Christmas dinner each year.
Another culprit of the negative aging stigma are the very institutions we use to offer assistance to seniors. According to Thomas, American nursing homes are regimented against seniors, making them feel useless, and are designed for the convenience of the staff, not the benefit of the patients.
Whether you’re running marathons at 80 or need a little help with mobility, aging is nothing to be ashamed of. By embracing our age and celebrating seniors, we help build a stronger, happier elderly community.