August 25, 2023

It is Possible to Control Negative Thoughts about Aging

Age bias doesn’t show up only as discrimination or snarky birthday cards, according to The Washington Post. One potent source of ageism comes from older people themselves.

Internalized ageism is the negative voice in people’s heads that sometimes pushes them to tell themselves they’re having a “senior moment” when they forget a name, or to take extreme measures to look younger. These attitudes are quite common: Over 80 percent of people between ages 50 and 80 subscribe to ageist stereotypes, according to a study led by Julie Ober Allen, assistant professor of health and exercise science at the University of Oklahoma.

Like other forms of ageism, the self-inflicted kind is associated with lower levels of emotional and physical health and can subtract years off people’s lives. It may include feeling that decline is inevitable.

The irony is that in reality, the vast majority of older people feel in good health and are satisfied with their lives. But you’d never know that from how seniors are portrayed in advertising and entertainment — forgetful, cranky and frail.

Older people do have the power, however, to shift these negative feelings and improve their well-being. When seniors are reminded of the many positive aspects of aging, such as wisdom gained from experience, they often see immediate benefits such as becoming stronger and having more will to live.

“Studies have shown that when people unconsciously absorbed uplifting words about aging, they exhibited changes such as improved memory, and their blood pressure and heart rate were reduced,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “On the other hand, after unconsciously taking in negative messaging about growing older, participants had worse recall and heightened stress.”

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