Talking about the Concept of Age
On a visit to Portland, Oregon several years ago for a niece’s wedding, my husband and I took the bus downtown. I was tickled to look at the ticket and see that it identified
me as an “Honored Citizen” for this trip, a reference to people of a certain age that I had not heard before.
Lately, I have been reading about research that suggests we re-frame or adjust our attitudes about aging, because “aging is misunderstood and misperceptions create obstacles”, both personally and for our communities.
The aging of our population is one of the biggest demographic changes in history. If we can adjust our expectations and attitudes, the aging population could yield an incredible “longevity dividend”, as Americans gain an average of two extra decades of life in which to make social, civic, and economic contributions. On the other hand, ageism is discrimination based on fatalistic prejudices about age, and hurts all of us. If we fail to shift our thinking, perpetuating expectations of decline and negative stereotypes about older people; we risk limiting the contributions older people can make, the vitality they can add to our society and the problem solving insights they can bring to the challenges of the communities in which we all live.
Our work in the Coventry Service Program is evidence based, using research that has documented not just the importance of taking care of our physical selves, but of the great need for us to stay socially connected and to find meaning by making contributions throughout our lives. That is why our phone based assessment for risks that could affect your independence asks questions ranging from your social connections to whether there are potential fall risks in your home. It is also why we have taken a pro-active stance with our policyholders to help them maximize the options they have.
As one author says “Aging is a dynamic process. As we age, we accumulate experiences, insights and wisdom. This process sparks new ideas, propels us toward new goals and advances our communities. To fully capture the massive energy of our ever-aging population, we need to think differently — -and innovatively. The good news is that we have already begun to.”
So on that Portland bus, I was happy to be identified as an “honored citizen”, because instead of being viewed as diminished due to my age, it gave me the sense of being valued. As we all age, it is something I wish for every one of us.
By Ms. Phyllis Bailey, (Prepared for a corporate newsletter in August, 2017)