Of all the “-isms” and phobias that plague our society, ageism may be the most pervasive and least discussed. In 2019, the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging found that four in five adults aged 50 to 80 had experienced one or more forms of everyday ageism.
What counts as everyday ageism? Some respondents flagged exposure to ageist messaging, like TV commercials touting some miracle “cure” for wrinkles or graying hair. Others reported being the butt of ageist jokes, such as when an ordinary moment of forgetfulness is classified as a “senior moment.”
To combat ageism, we first need to understand that it touches everyone—not just older adults. “Society as a whole is affected by ageism,” says Melissa Blackstone, ConnectedLiving Director at The Village at Rockville–A National Lutheran Community. “This prejudice causes everyone to want to look and be ‘young.’ There is nothing wrong with ageing, but when society paints it in a negative light, it becomes something people fear.”
The good news is that most respondents in the University of Michigan poll agreed with Melissa’s point that ageing should be a positive experience. Almost nine in ten said they felt more comfortable being themselves, while four in five had a stronger sense of purpose. Furthermore, older adults with positive views on ageing experienced less ageism and had better physical and mental health than their less optimistic peers.
These results should give us hope. When older adults are supported in their life choices and allowed to grow, they feel happier, healthier and more fulfilled. Younger people interacting with these seniors are more likely to feel positive about ageing and less likely to harbor ageist sentiments. Everyone is better off.
At the Village at Providence Point–A National Lutheran Community (planned for opening in 2024), we will do everything in our power to promote this virtuous circle. Residents can expect programs ranging across all seven dimensions of wellness — social, physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, environmental and vocational. Activities will include everything from environmental outings to courses led by specialists in photography, art, fitness, theater and other stimulating topics.
Empowered by these opportunities, our residents can make a mockery of the negative stereotypes that feed into ageism — that older adults are “set in their ways,” for example, or uncomfortable around modern technology. As Melissa puts it, “People come to communities like ours to thrive and to live their lives in the best way possible. In partnership with our residents, we will provide experiences that support personal choice, lifelong learning and an increased sense of well-being.”