In this post I share with you my views about the Media and Ageism and I provide some suggestions on how to counteract stereotypes. Many people do not look forward to getting older because of the many stereotypes associated with Aging. Aging though is wonderful. There is so much that we can do with our time and ourselves. We need to stay active and engage in many new activities, in particular, activities we have not had the opportunity to try. Embrace Aging with joy. I quote Pope Paul VI who said, “The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune.” Let us all then, young and old, work together to dismiss the stereotypes currently associated with Aging.

The Media and Ageism

The media is particularly guilty of discriminating against older people. Older people are almost invisible in the media. There are many dynamic older people but they are very seldom featured in the media. The media only portrays younger, attractive people. Newscasters are young people, so are programme presenters on Television. Anyone over the age of 45 is considered over the hill!

Advertisements for cosmetics are always extolling the abilities of their products to keep off wrinkles, get rid of body fat and prevent ageing, generally. If you buy the right clothes, the right undergarments, you can have a young figure. You can look young. The message that they scream out to us is that Ageing is Bad…We don’t want it…We don’t need it!!! The result of this is that we end up telling ourselves that older people are not quite with it, are out of fashion and that older people cannot contribute much to society. Older people are made to feel insecure, undesirable and unattractive. Older people are portrayed as inactive, unhealthy, asexual, unattractive and ineffective.

Older people are often featured reminiscing about unfulfilled dreams and visions. They are often shown as infirm, with bent bodies and incapable of walking tall. They are portrayed as difficult people, with stubborn personalities who want their own way. They are sometimes depicted as forgetful, confused individuals who are dependent on others.

Both men and women must rethink their views of ageing. Ageing is beautiful, it is wonderful. One’s figure, one’s weight, one’s wrinkles are all beautiful.

Counteracting Stereotypes

There are a number of negative stereotypes associated with ageing. Ageing is considered to be negative and full of problems.

Society values youth and beauty. We have all been taught from young that youth is our most powerful asset and that when we lose it we become useless and are redundant. This is not true and we should not allow this to make us feel awful! If you are an older person, project an image of yourself as someone who knows a lot and has had a wealth of experience. Make people realise that you are full of vitality and not, as they may often presume, someone who is tired and old. Show them that you are interested in things around you, in new projects, new ideas and new technologies. Let people know that you enjoy your work and that you are always on the lookout for new ideas, new solutions. Avoid being stubborn or give the impression that you have experienced it all before and that therefore, you know all the answers. Do not keep talking about the past and how good it was then.

As an older person, project yourself as someone who expects to do well in all your tasks and projects. After all, over the years, you have learnt to do things well. Show that you are interested in other people’s ideas. Be enthusiastic. Do not live away from young people. Make sure that there are people of all ages in your circle of friends and acquaintances with whom you interact. In this way you will not feel old and behave as such. To be popular with young people it is sometimes good to talk less and listen more. Try not to criticize them and always put their interests first. Avoid being too proud to ask for their help. More importantly, be friendly at all times.

Avoid exhibiting the physical characteristics of the elderly, for example, the way they walk. Walk tall. Dress smartly. Many people believe that once they are old they should not bother with their appearance and that it is alright to be sloppy and untidy. They also dress conservatively and stay home. Your appearance helps to boost your morale so it is well worth the time and effort to dress smartly and to take care of your appearance. Do not harp on the fact that you are old, feeble, weak and suffering from various ailments. Do not regret your age and do not keep looking back to the past.

With regular exercise your skin and muscles will be kept firm. Maintain a nutritious diet and if you keep fit and have a positive attitude, you may not notice any major loss of energy or a decrease in the actual size of your muscles. Exercise will provide you with the following benefits:

• Improved flexibility and coordination
• Improved muscle tone, improved strength and endurance
• Greater stamina and less fatigue
• Prevention of bone deterioration
• Decreased constipation and digestive diseases
• Weight control
• Reduced stress and tension
• Reduced cholesterol levels
• Improved psychological sense of well-being

Be confident and proud of yourself as you age. Think in terms of what you have gained rather than in terms of what you have lost. Life is great the older we get! We have much to gain when we are older. The following quotation by Betty Friedan should inspire you:

“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.”

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