A culture can be surprisingly oppressive. Often the people living in it do not realise how much they are controlled by it.
You don’t think that applies in the Western World though? It does. It does!
For example, how easy is it for us living in a Culture of Youth to ignore the social pressure to stay young? Can you?
Why is it a worry that we all become an older person? It is a normal stage of all our lives. You are still the same person inside so why would it bother you?
If you lived in another culture where the older generation are revered and respected would you feel the same?
Ageing is part of all our lives, but how react to it is culture dependent.
In our culture today, Ageing is not OK. It is seen as giving in. It is rather like a disease. It is to be feared and fought against. Or pitied. Reality is distorted. Successful ageing is seen as still being able to run a marathon at 90….!
Wrong! Happy older people do not need to run marathons. They live wisely, exercise sensibly and enjoy the richness of later life.
This understanding of a different period in our lives is not currently part of our culture. You aren’t expected to welcome this stage of life. “Dont talk about it. You aren’t old yet! “ they tell you. But if I tell them “I am old! And I am happy to be, so“? Younger people find that hard to believe. How can they? They aren’t here yet.
The belief that a good life ends when you are no longer young is all pervasive today. It is damaging and unhelpful for everyone.
(Except perhaps for those who peddle anti ageing products.)
This distorted image of later years distorts our society. Middle years people fear them, younger people see their elders as “other” and the elderly themselves become negative and loose confidence. Worse, Employers and Businesses accept it too!
Pity when it is truly a special and valuable time of life. One to be appreciated.
The reality is that many older people are well and living happy useful lives*…give or take time out for a new knee or two….then back to Bowls, Babysitting or collecting for Barnardos.
But research done by the Centre for Ageing Better showed that some, who could and should be happier are not. They are stuck with this negative image of old age. See themselves as failures and losers, doomed to decline.
We can and must challenge the current, sadly restrictive, doom and gloom image?
We need to make it an understood part of today’s culture that for the majority the later years of our lives are rich, rewarding and enjoyable?
It would be vastly better for everyone if we could!
Maybe its time to create some image changing Culture Shock?
Three things we can do:
First: Challenge the media. And Charities!
For every doom story you use, ensure you put in at least two balancing positive ones.
No! Not marathon runners , not Helen Mirren looking wonderful or 90 year old lovebirds. US, everyday ordinary folk, wrinkles and all, volunteering, working, playing and loving it. The same 20 year olds, 50 years to the better!
Second: Stop seeing and treating old people as ‘other’. Create more interactive living opportunities for mixed generations. Not retirement ghettos. Age Friendly public spaces. Shared community events. Adverts showing mixed generations enjoying themselves out walking, in parks, in leisure centres. Eating together ( If we can stop the excessive noise in restaurants) And mixed generation teaching in colleges? Good for everyone.
Third: Persuade older people to ‘Come Out” and shout!
Later Years are Great Years”
Forget about wrinkles, smiles and twinkles are what really count in the happiness stakes. Accept age. It is fine! Embrace its pleasures. Treasure the days. Enjoy it.
*The CAB report showed that 75% of the older people surveyed reported a happiness score of 6+ out of 10. And over 70% gave a self reported general health score of Good, Very Good or Excellent.