We live in a culture where we think perfection is the epitome of beauty and that our youth is the most exciting times of our lives. Beauty industries commercialise on making us believe eternal youth is possible. So, we dissociate ourselves from all things old and do our utmost to reverse the ageing process – and we fool ourselves it’s biologically achievable.
So many young women now start their anti-ageing regime with Botox injections as early as their 20’s that it’s become commonly known as ‘teen-boxing’ - a cultural condition of body dysmorphia has overtaken what once was considered an individual psychological condition. Young people today fear no-one will care for them when they are old. Let’s face it, fairy tales represent the youthful stage of life and end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’ – they rarely depict glorified images of what later is. The Fountain of Youth with methods of ‘rejuvenation’ was popularised back in the time of Alexander the Great.
We are bombarded by images in the media prizing youth and vitality with adverts promoting how life should be and older people are noticeably absent from them. Our culture fails at valuing the middle-age and the elderly and when we do see them, it’s presented in unfavourable ways. Society fails to show older people leading productive and exciting lives, and we know they do!
The World Health Organisation reports the negative attitudes our culture has towards ageing as now having significant consequences for the physical and mental health for older adults. Older people are left feeling they are a burden and are less valuable to their families and society. This puts them at risk of depression and isolation. There is a real danger that their mental health needs are left unrecognised.
Alana Officer, World Health Organisation (WHO) Coordinator of Ageing and Life Course said “society will benefit from this ageing population if we all age more healthily, but to do that, we must stamp out ageist prejudices."
Analysis by WHO report that ageism is widespread and that 60% of those participating in a survey showed that older people are not respected and the lowest levels of respect were reported to be in high income countries. It seems ageism is extremely common and yet many are unaware of their stereo-typical prejudices they hold about older people.
We need to stop defining people by their age and learn to understand that no age-group has the monopoly on beauty. Ageing starts from the moment we are born; it’s not something that ‘happens to us’ in our second stage of life. The word ‘ageing’ means ‘living’.
Beauty and vitality is expressed from within and growing older means growing an inner confidence; we become more diverse and are less preoccupied with what others think. Start fighting your own inner stereotypes by recognising that they exist, reflect on your youth and recognise your competence in comparison and seek role models. Who out there do you admire? Let them be a source of inspiration and together we can shift the attitudes in society and bring mature perspectives into trend.