AGEISM, THE LAST “ALLOWED” PREJUDICE?
DO NOT FEAR AGING. IT IS A PRIVILEGE DENIED TO MANY.
There is something wonderful that can come with aging. A calm wisdom, a freedom, and a clearing perspective.
Respecting our elders is deeply ingrained in most cultures and societies.
WHAT DOES AGING WELL MEAN?
Aging is the inevitable and natural process of life, and aging results from the impact of a wide variety of different types of molecular and cellular damage over the years. Aging results in a gradual decrease in physical and mental capacity and a higher possibility of disease.
It is important to realise that aging is not a linear or a constant process and each individual ages in their own way and at their own pace. Genetics and environment play an important role in determining how a person will age.
Aging well is a dynamic and everchanging process and should not be taken for granted. By actively seeking out the right lifestyle you can create long-term positive changes that will benefit the physical, social, economic, and cultural landscape of aging.
By being an active participant in your own aging process and by supporting the aging of your loved ones, you can contribute to a society where the stigma around age is lifted and maintaining quality of life remains a material part of care all through life.
BE AN AGE POSITIVE ACTIVIST
Ageism is the process through which individuals are discriminated against simply because of their age.
Ageism is problematic because it lumps together varying individuals, who all have unique personal experiences and circumstances, purely because of how much time they have spent on this earth. Just as no two 17-year-olds are the same, no two 70-year-olds are exactly the same either.
By writing off an individual as “old”, “elderly” or “geriatric” we are erasing their uniqueness and ignoring their own, specific, and individual needs, circumstances, abilities and opinions.
Yes. Many 65-year-olds might have left the formal employment environment, and many 70-year-olds might choose not to drive long distances or walk with a walking aid, but this does not mean that 65-year-olds are inherently less valuable members of society or that 70-year-olds cannot be a force for good in their communities.
BE A GERIATRIC CARE PARTNER
The truth remains however, that human bodies do age, and with age comes certain infirmities. If a person is blessed with a long life, there will come a time when expert geriatric care is needed.
The focus of this care should not simply be palliative. There is a misconception that age comes with aches and pains, and therefore a loss of mobility is simply to be accepted.
A true geriatric care provider, that takes the patient as a whole, into account and respects the human within, will remain involved and interested while they meticulously investigate the real cause of the complaint. Remembering to see each ageing human for the wholeness of their being and the wealth of experiences they have lived, is the only real way to “respect our elders”.
Age is a privilege, and if you are blessed with a long life, you yourself will also face the frailness of old age.
HOW DO WE BUILD AN AGE-POSITIVE SOCIETY?
• Understand that aging differs from person to person.
• Be proactive in your own life:
• Maintain a healthy lifestyle to stave off the negative effects of aging on your body as long as possible.
• If possible, make provisions for your own financial independence as you age.
• Try to be a compassionate partner-in-aging for your loved ones.
• Speak up for the elderly and invest in or support age-positive institutions that focus on quality care for older people.
ACCORDING TO THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION THE GLOBAL POPULATION IS AGING AT AN UNPRECEDENTED RATE:
• Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22%.
• By 2020, the number of people aged 60 years and older outnumber children younger than 5 years.
• In 2050, 80% of older people will be living in low- and middle-income countries.
• All countries face major challenges to ensure that their health and social systems are ready to make the most of this demographic shift.
An awareness campaign called “Turn turquoise for the elderly” will run from 15 May (International Family Day) to 15 June (World Elderly Abuse Awareness Day).
The campaign is now recognised in the national list of awareness days. Its purpose is two-fold:
Create awareness about the elderly in our communities, especially those not accommodated by institutions for the elderly, thus being more at risk.
Give organisations, homes for the aged, congregations, etc an opportunity to generate funds for support of the elderly.
For more on this campaign, visit the website below: