What feelings are stirred up in your gut when you think about the fact that you are ageing and barring any eventualities will steadily continue to do so? Is it fear, anger, anxiety, loss, or regret? This cocktail of negative feelings partly linked to our fear of death and the unknown in part explains our obsession with all things anti-ageing. From extreme diets to cosmetics and cosmetic surgery to stem cell therapy and cryotherapy, there’s no shortage of things that people will do to stave off ageing. All this pressure further compounds the negative feelings we have about something we can’t stop. This is why we need a different approach to ageing. Enter positive ageing.
Fears about ageing
People have negative feelings about ageing for a variety of reasons including fear of:
- A decline in physical and cognitive abilities
- Social isolation
- Becoming a burden on society
- Losing independence, financial and otherwise
- Losing physical attractiveness
The problem with anti-ageing rhetoric
Anti-ageing rhetoric by exploring our fears and insecurities props up numerous industries from cosmetics to supplements and even medical industries. It’s not just profitable, it’s also far more harmful than we oftentimes realize.
Anti-ageing products from cosmetics to supplements make bold claims and promises that often cannot be backed up by evidence. Many anti-ageing products and supplements are also heavily unregulated and can be harmful beyond being highly ineffective.
Ageism and hyper-focus on youth
Ageing is a natural and inevitable part of life and trying to reverse or stop it is futile and misguided. Our obsession with youth and beauty is damaging to people of all ages and perpetuates unrealistic standards that can lead to unhealthy and even life-threatening choices. It encourages people to engage in dangerous and sometimes life-threatening practices to stop ageing which can’t be done. Anti-ageing is rooted in ageism which views ageing as a problem to be solved rather than a natural process to be embraced.
All of those resources and people focused on things like anti-wrinkling creams and surgical procedures could better use their skill sets on things that matter. All that brainpower and the accompanying financial resources could be better spent addressing other important healthcare concerns and social needs.
Takes the joy
There’s no doubt that ageing comes with its challenges, yet all this anti-ageing rhetoric does is it take the joy out of living even before we get to old age. All that fear and associated attempts to stave off ageing just suck the joy of living and make us miss out on any of the positive aspects of ageing.
Positive ageing is one of those things that mean different things to different people. Broadly and for the purposes of this article, we’ll define it as having a positive attitude towards ageing itself. It includes accepting the changes positive and negative that come with ageing and focusing on the positive aspects of it. It also includes rejecting the negative stereotypes and ageist attitudes our society perpetuates.
Ageing can bring many positive changes including increased wisdom and better perspective. Embracing ageing can lead to a more meaningful life as we let go of society’s many expectations. Ageing does have its challenges not least of them being health and financial issues but these are challenges that can be faced especially if as a society we prioritize meeting these new needs through things like basic income and universal healthcare.
Instead of trying to reverse or stop ageing, we should instead focus on what our fears reveal about the structure of society and the ways in which we can improve our quality of life as we age to mitigate those fears. Our fears of financial dependence and isolation as well as health concerns are largely social concerns. These ageist views also reveal how our society needs to do a better job as a society at valuing and respecting older adults.
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