Disrupt Aging. Turn back the clock on aging. Delay aging. These have become commonplace headlines in the media and product advertisements, shouting at us to do something before it’s too late. Frankly, I find this disturbing. Is it really that terrible to grow older? Does it have to be that terrible to grow older? 10,000 people daily are turning 65 – a trend that is expected to continue for the next decade. Technology to help us remain healthy, to have global connections, to learn more and learn faster is growing at a tremendous rate. People are retiring with decades more time to enjoy leisure, start an encore career or even a whole new business. Isn’t this exciting? What are we afraid of?
Yes it’s true that as the population increases and people live longer the rate of Alzheimer’s and dementia is growing. And older bodies don’t always move the same way or at the same rate as earlier in our lives. Research has shown that our brains don’t work as quickly as when we were younger, but they do work deeper because of the knowledge we have acquired.
Let’s start to embrace aging. If it is something that we value and we look forward to then this change in attitude will change how we respond. Because what we think about something drives how we act. If growing older is celebrated as an accomplishment – if every major decade birthday card had congratulations rather than some joke or insult about growing older – what would we do differently? Would we fuel ourselves better with good food and healthy exercise? Would we incorporate older people into our daily activities? Would our land planning, economic development planning and business planning anticipate the needs of people from birth to 100 plus?
May is Older Americans month. I challenge you to rethink aging. Celebrate it. If there’s something that’s not working for you about aging, change it. When you see people denying aging, call it out. Whether it’s an ad in the media, a stereotype being perpetuated, a policy that creates a barrier – call it out. Then keep on going, sharing the fun and the joy and the opportunity that comes from aging together.