What words come to mind when you hear the word “aging” or “senior”? For some, these words bring up negative stereotypes about the physical and mental state of older adults in our society.
Unfortunately, the concept of aging is more likely to be thought of as a time of sickness, vulnerability, dependency, and being out of touch with society. These societal misperceptions ultimately limit older people’s ability to contribute to our communities as they do not reflect the reality of aging. These misperceptions and implicit biases are why changing the conversation around aging is so important!
When our team at Age Well CT attended a recent seminar about “Reframing Aging”, we learned about the challenges of changing negative perceptions. Because of our experience working on the Age Well CT team, as well as our own life experiences, when we think of older people, we think of wisdom, knowledge, contribution, experience, perspective, and strength. Opening the conversation around aging is a way to improve the public’s understanding of aging, shed stereotypes, and remove obstacles.
Older people are vital to the wellbeing of our society. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2024, the percentage of the labor force ages 55 and older will be at approximately 25% in the United States. (1) Older adults are also most likely to volunteer in their communities and to be civically engaged, participating in voting and elections. During the COVID-19 pandemic, older adults have taken on the roles of being caregivers to their families, and thousands of retired professionals have volunteered during the pandemic. (2)
The reality is that older people have a lot to contribute to our society, but the language around aging typically creates a negative connotation around growing older. This can be seen in commercials on age-prevention cream and hair loss correction, or in the lack of older adult representation in technology or workplace related settings in the media.
Opening the conversation around aging can make it possible for older people to have equal opportunities to contribute to our society. By using inclusive terminology such as “as we age” and putting greater emphasis on positive stories involving older people in our communities, we can start to reframe and provide more accurate and positive context around aging. This is an advantage for everyone in society, as we all “age well together”!
1. “Older workers: Labor force trends and career options.” May 2017. Source: https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2017/article/older-workers.htm
2. “‘I’ve Been Missing Caring for People.’ Thousands of Retired Health Care Workers Are Volunteering to Help Areas Overwhelmed By Coronavirus.” March 26, 2020. Source: https://time.com/5810120/retired-health-care-workers-coronavirus/