Curious minds want to know:
- Do you let your wrinkles, greys, or aging body dictate what you do or don’t do?
- Do you allow social assumptions like “Old people are not tech savvy,” or “Old people can’t successfully start a new career” stop you from pursuing the career of your dreams?
- Do you judge others for wearing fashion that you consider age-inappropriate?
- Do you despise your younger boss because they are, quite frankly, younger?
Truth be told, we all judge. Often how we see and judge others, begins with how we see and judge ourselves. And ageism is no different. We all have an inner ageist.
I believe that internalized ageism is a disease that robs us of a life well lived. These thoughts, often fueled by outdated social constructs, misguided beliefs about aging, and self-prophesizing negative inner dialogue, are dangerous. Research has found that people afflicted with internalized ageism tend to disengage socially, deprioritize health, harbor ageist beliefs against others, and more.
I’d like to believe that internalized ageism affects only a small percentage of us, but it doesn’t. Over 80 percent of people between ages 50 and 80 subscribe to ageist stereotypes, according to a study led by Julie Ober Allen, assistant professor of health and exercise science at the University of Oklahoma.
While that is a staggering statistic, luckily, “Age beliefs are not set in stone,” according to Becca Levy, a professor of epidemiology and psychology at the Yale School of Public Health who is a leading expert on the health effects of ageism. To that, I say “Thank goodness,” because life is challenging as is, and we don’t need to beat ourselves up more simply because we’re aging—a universal human experience.
I want to…
- be my biggest cheerleader.
- push boundaries.
- prove to myself (not others) what I can be or do at 50, 60, 70, and beyond.
- celebrate every year God leaves me on this earth.
- live life in full color.
5 Tips to Fight Internalized Ageism
If this sounds like the life you want to live too, then here are five things you can start doing today to silence your inner ageist judge:
- Check your vocabulary. Do you use ageist remarks when talking to yourself? “You’re too old to wear that.” “I can’t find my keys, having another senior moment.” “I’m too old for this.” How we talk to ourselves is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and influences how we see the world. Be aware of what you’re telling yourself out loud and in your head.
- Stop “othering.” Othering is when you view or treat (a person or group of people) as intrinsically different from yourself. Do you attend events and intentionally look around to see how many people are older or younger than you, even though age has nothing to do with the event? Is your friend group primarily made up of others who are in the same age group as you? Stop looking for ways to purposely stand out, and instead focus on being curious about who else is in the room.
- Check your ageist assumptions. Do you work out hard the day before and blame your body aches the next morning on “being old” versus the workout? Do you opt for returning to school online because you don’t want to be the “oldest” in the classroom? Instead of letting age influence what you do or don’t do…just do it.
- Take care of yourself. Embrace aging with renewed vigor and health goals. Be mindful of what you are and aren’t doing and then adjust. Add daily movement, discover new ways to challenge and grow your mind, and try new recipes that nourish and support your aging body. You are your own steward, so take steps to ensure you are living the best life possible—regardless of age.
- Stand up to ageism. I like to believe that most people are not intentionally being offensive or ageist, they just don’t know better. Every action you take, whether that’s calling out an ageist remark, signing petitions to support age discrimination legislation, or sharing pro-aging articles or studies on your social, are proactive steps you can take to strengthen your confidence while making this world a little more age-inclusive. (Check out some ideas from Changing the Narrative.)
I realize this is quite the undertaking. Breaking free from ageist beliefs is not easy. The National Poll on Healthy Aging confirms that people aged 50 to 80 are barraged with negative stereotypes about getting older. While the overabundance of anti-aging messages across all media forms can hijack our everyday thoughts, you have the power to identify and call out these messages for what they are, just an opinion.
And, in case you didn’t know the exact definition of the word opinion, here you go. An opinion is a view or judgment formed about something, not necessarily based on fact or knowledge.
Break free from what others want you to believe about yourself and return to what you know is your own truth. You are a beautiful, powerful, intelligent, and truly amazing middlescent. #believe
Guadalupe Hirt is a four-time entrepreneur, pro-aging advocate, and middlescence life strategist.
She pens the LinkedIn blog Dear Middlescent, a pro-aging stance on the beauty, truths, and opportunities of middlescence. She’s a Next Avenue Influencer in Aging honoree, Facebook Community Accelerator Alum, and Encore Network board member.