The 'incredible power of oldness' – knocking the stereotype of aging
You probably saw the recent campaign on TV that does a wonderful job of knocking the stereotype of aging and instead celebrates...
The text goes like this:
“I know what you’re thinking. I’m old. Very old. And you might be wondering, how did I get so lucky? Because, as you and I know, old people can do amazing things. We’re experienced and we know how things work. We help in our communities, in ways big and small. We’re active in life -- and online. We add billions to the economy. And when it comes to the tough choices, we’ve got the wisdom to get it right. Oldness. It’s everywhere. And if you’re lucky, it can happen to you.”
The stereotype renders seniors invisibleThe stereotype automatically brands being old as being in a state of loss - loss of health, income, hearing, and mental capacity. As a result, people find it easier to ‘disappear’ older people. Seniors become invisible. Seniors experience service invisibility in retail; product invisibility from corporates; cultural invisibility in popular culture; and eventually relationship invisibility because of a perceived burden to friends and family. What’s more, privilege and education levels are no defense against this invisibility – all seniors experience it in ways big and small.
University graduates, young people, those with incomes over $100K, full-time employees, those in capital cities and males, are major offenders in promoting the stereotype.
What’s power to us Baby Boomers?Our media’s incessant portrayal of sport suggests that the powerful people are those who are either dominant or physically strong.
But really, true power is the ability to do something effectively. That’s the power which comes with age and experience. We don’t lose this power when we retire.
Being effective when we retire is surely the best way to break down the stereotypes of ageing and the discrimination which accompanies it -- to use our skills, take responsibility to improve our health outcomes, to know how to continue our path of conscious growth. All these things will increase our assets of energy, purpose, health and even make our financial assets go further.
Many retirees will see the opportunity to broaden their perspective of life. Some will take advantage of new social movements which help them engage with new groups of people in activities they enjoy, and being relevant and useful too.
Here are a few interesting examples of new ways of engaging with others
- Achilles Running Group, a worldwide ‘movement’ that says it’s ‘More than just exercise. Helping people who would like to walk and run, able-bodied and disabled, to do it together’.
- ‘Meetup groups’ which align with specific interests in your locality. On any one week there can be over 100,000 Meetups happening on any subject and interest imaginable – urban gardening, technology, photography, hiking, entrepreneurship and so much more.
- Think-Tanks, such as the St James Ethics Centre which discuss the ‘big issues’ of the day in IQ2 debates, which assist those attending to stay relevant and interesting to the younger members of our families and communities.
You can start your own special interest group, which may, of course, be for any topic or medium you choose. Many seniors set up social groups for books, films, history, bridge and so on. Usually these start with a few friends who share the common interest, more friends and their friends are added over time.
Of course many will choose, or be tasked with, the traditional jobs associated with this stage of life. I’m referring to the one in five Australians over 65 who are carers, and the grandparents who are the carers and even the guardians of their grandchildren. Our communities wouldn’t function without them being powerful in this generous way.
Our expression of power may change over time. Regardless of whether we are paid workers or not, we can tap our incredible power of oldness by being more aware of just what we know and how we contribute to make others’ lives better.
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