Ageing, Ageism, And Being Comfortable In Your Own Old Skin

The physical, psychological and social changes over time are the properties of ageing. It’s inevitable, and both young and old need to deal with it. So far, we are unable to prevent it. Even if you follow Woody Allen’s advice that ” you can live to be a hundred if you give up all things that make you want to live to be a hundred”, you will still be old. So peoples of the world have sought the Fountain of Youth. So far, this elixir is not available.

Ageism, in contrast to ageing, is not inevitable, but common. It is the adoption of a stereotypical vision of old age with all the inherent values of discrimination. Especially with respect to employment and health care. Those attitudes bounce back on to the old person, producing a “looking-glass self” as first described by Charles Cooley in 1902. The aged subject morphs into the persona that he or she perceives younger people think them to be. It’s a double whammy. People treat you unfairly because you are old, and that makes you feel older.

Madonna, aged 53. When she was 40, she said: "Not only do we suffer from racism and sexism, but we also suffer from ageism. Once you reach a certain age you're not allowed to be adventurous, you're not allowed to be sexual, I mean is there a rule? Are you supposed to just die when you're 40?" (Wiki Commons, photo Ed-Van West)

Madonna, aged 53. When she was 40, she said: “Not only do we suffer from racism and sexism, but we also suffer from ageism. Once you reach a certain age you’re not allowed to be adventurous, you’re not allowed to be sexual, I mean is there a rule? Are you supposed to just die when you’re 40?” (Wiki Commons, photo Ed-Van West)

Ageing is a given, and ageism is widespread. What do you do? You need¬†to be¬†comfortable in your own old skin. Madonna, smart, sassy and attractive at 55, is comfortable in her ‘old’ skin by being her usual outrageous self. An old academic woman will wear her reading glasses with pride and aplomb. The old athlete will settle in his chair and watch younger stars of the track on TV with pride not regret. The eighty year old man, frail, on medication, now unable to help his partner, will nurture the memories of their life together.

It’s all about acceptance and mindfulness. Acceptance that, although your lot may be advanced, at least you scored some time on this earth. Statistically that’s a very rare occurrence! Mindfulness in that you live for the very moment.

You can teach yourself acceptance and mindfulness at any age. I can recommend a terrific book by Stephen McKenzie and Craig Hassed from Melbourne. Yes, teach yourself when you are 25 or 35 or 75. And, for the remainder of your life, you will be comfortable in your own old skin, irrespective of ageing and ageism.

If you have problems helping yourself, seek help here or here.

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