It’s (Past) Time to Redefine How Society Views Aging

It’s (Past) Time to Redefine How Society Views Aging

May is Older Americans Month, and at Asbury, we’ll be celebrating. But this year, our celebrations have a serious purpose. Addressing ageism.

We all know the stereotypes: “He looks great for his age!” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “Sorry, I’m having a senior moment.”

We’ve probably all said one of these at one time or another. But these stereotypes have consequences we can’t afford, especially as our aging population increases.

Did you know that a Georgia State University study found that older adults who were viewed as cognitively or physically impaired performed below their actual abilities on tasks? We don’t have to look hard to see that society’s ageist perceptions affect how we view ourselves as we age. And that, in turn, can impact how we age.

Ageism has a unique ability to harm because we are all aging. Since I started my first job in senior living at age 16, I’ve been trying to change the way society views this process. We’ve got to flip the conversation. And what industry is better suited to do that than senior living?

We can all benefit from looking at the positives that come with aging – and there are many!

For starters, older adults are committed to giving back.

According to AARP, volunteerism rates for individuals under the age of 65 in the United States have been on the decline for more than 20 years. The opposite is true when you look at seniors: the percentage of total U.S. volunteerism from those age 65-plus grew from 18 percent to 29 percent from 2002 to 2021.

Many do this well into their 80s and 90s – despite challenges from chronic health conditions and the natural aging process. How much more would be contributed if we invested in removing transportation and other barriers that can deter participation?

At Asbury, residents are changing the lives of associates through establishing scholarship funds – more than half a million dollars has been donated across our system. They’re enhancing the lives of their neighbors by supporting benevolent care or helping fund dog parks, lecture series, labyrinths, even wood-burning pizza ovens.

There are so many positive stories to share. So, here’s Asbury’s contribution to the conversation. During Older Americans Month, we’ll be sharing real senior moments on our social media channels.

People learning boxing techniques and how to climb rock walls. Mentoring youth and working toward social justice in the community. Having fun with their friends at happy hours and cook outs. Water tubing on a hot summer day. Creating pollinator gardens. Enjoying the beauty of a nearby state park.

These are seniors making the most of their moments to create inspired connections, new opportunities for themselves and others, and add meaning to their lives – just as we all want to do.

Please keep an eye out for our “senior moment” posts during the next few months and share them. I hope you’ll join the campaign by sharing your own positive stories. Let’s do our best to evolve the conversation and change the way society views aging.

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