As seniors, we are all subject to the effects of ageism. It is some-times so subtle and unintentional that we don’t even notice it. When ageism is directed at us, it often involves assumptions that we are less competent, less attractive, and less vigorous than younger people.
Ageism in our society has deep roots. Because of the messages our brains receive from childhood on, we form judgments about people based on their age. For example, news coverage or stereotypical movie characters lead many people to subconsciously form negative opinions about older people based on age alone. We even make these judgments about ourselves as aging people. Awareness of these unintentional biases is the first step to combating ageism in our society.
Why should you care about ageism? By buying into the stereo-typical beliefs about older people, we are damaging our own lives and health. In an interesting longitudinal study of 660 people, 50 years and older, Becca Levy, assistant professor of public health at Yale University, found that those with more positive self-perceptions of aging had significantly better memory and balance, and lived seven and a half years longer, than those with negative self-perceptions of aging.
Here at Carolina Meadows we are launching “Be Bold, Claim Old,” an ageism awareness and advocacy program. We’re starting with the premise that aging is not just biological but also culturally defined. We all play an active role in creating a culture. We are all aware of the very real and difficult challenges inherent in aging. We want to take a purposeful approach to also recognize the value and positive aspects of growing older. This initiative is an opportunity for us, as a community, to further explore what it means to age in our society and campus community, and how we, as individuals, think about aging and growing older. It also gives us an opportunity to celebrate every age!
As part of the initiative, a Serendipitous Saturday workshop on ageism will be held on December 2 at 10 am in the Lecture Hall. (See p. 5 for an article on this pro-gram.) There will also be a special art project on the left wall leading into the Marketplace. Watch for announcements to learn how you can contribute to this project.
The “Be Bold, Claim Old” project was conceived by Amy Gorely, VP of Strategy and Outreach for Carolina Meadows, through her work with a national leadership academy. The planning team for this initiative includes the Resident Association Chair and Chair-Elect, Chair of the Health and Wellness Committee, and staff leaders in the areas of activities, wellness, marketing and outreach. Pat Mandell has taken the lead within the Resident Association. Discussions have already begun with the Board of Directors, Marketing Ambassadors and Managers on campus. And much more is planned!
– Pat Mandell