Fighting the Stigma of Aging
The juxtaposition between the way older people view themselves and the way society at large views them is stark. In a survey run by Age UK, respondents universally agreed that “frail” was a negative label related to aging. This raises two vital questions; how can we bridge this gap and how can we fight the stigma of aging?
If you look up the dictionary definition of frail, it states “(of a person) weak and delicate”. It seems this definition of frail has extended to how we view the mental and physical capabilities of the elderly, when often the opposite is true. The stereotypical factors contributing to the stigma around aging include forgetfulness, declining cognitive ability and reduction in physical mobility. Paying too much attention to the stereotype, rather than the individual, often leads to well-meaning loved ones overcompensating and interfering in aspects of their relative’s life which that person is capable of handling. A good starting point in fighting the stigma of aging is communication. Taking time to talk to loved ones about activities you participate in and how you go about your daily life can be a subtle cue which reminds and reassures them that you are still hale and hearty! Even if they just call for a chat, keeping that line of communication open can be a simple way to update each other on what’s going on in your lives. Preventative measures are key in starting to break down the stigma surrounding aging also, particularly regarding the stereotype of cognitive decline in the elderly. Through one conversation, keeping your mind sharp can instantly disprove people’s preconceptions about the elderly population at large. Learning new skills such as knitting, doing cryptic crosswords or even dancing has been proven to improve or prevent cognitive decline and could even become your new hobby of choice. Using the Puzzles section in MindMate every day also tests reaction times and processing skills; exercising that area of the brain and leading to a higher performing individual (hopefully you enjoy doing them too, we always appreciate any feedback!). Mental health is as important as physical health as we age, with sharp minds, the boomer generation can take on and dispel the stigma associated with aging. However, physical health is also a huge part of clearing up the myths about aging Our physical condition contributes to the way that we are viewed by others, so keeping fit is not only beneficial for our wellbeing, but a great way to change perceptions about aging. In a recent article in The Atlantic, it was noted that the number of over 40s competing in U.S. marathons is at an all-time high, accounting for over 50% of male finishers and over 40% of female finishers. The article also highlighted that older adults, even those over 90 years of age, respond well to exercise training and regain much of what they lost with aging. This proves that it’s never too late to regain your vitality, so don’t throw out the old running shoes just yet! In the MindMate App, we offer many different exercises for body and mind - so, what are you waiting for?