Today, I want to talk about how to challenge our stereotypes about older adults.
Ageism is Bias and discrimination based on age and it affects older adults more than any other age group. Check out my episode from last week, where I talk about ageism and how it affects older adults.
I want to start by saying that categorizing and stereotyping people and developing bias and prejudice are a normal aspects of the human experience- we all do it, no matter our age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc - we all do it. It's a common human phenomenon. So, if you find yourself falling into the bias trap about others, it can help to remind yourself that you're human.
But even though its common, it’s not healthy, and it’s actually very harmful. As humans we’re good at creating biases and stereotypes, but as humans we’re also really also good at learning, healing, and growing.
So I am going to challenge us to make concerted effort to correct the prejudices and biases we’ve learned throughout our lives (and that we'll continue to learn) in order to live a healthier life and help others live a healthier life as well.
To help us do this, I want to share...
Here are some reflection questions to get you started:
- Consider the year you were born and your generational influences.
- Consider how age factors into your relationships with your friends, colleagues, family members.
- If you're younger than 65 years old, reflect on ways that you may have unconsciously engaged in ageist thoughts or actions (e.g., “shouldn't they retire"... "they’re surprisingly sharp"... "of course they're depressed, they're old”). Did you even know that these are ageist thoughts? How have you tried to correct these ageist episodes/thoughts?
- If you are 65 or older, reflect on ways that you have experienced ageism either toward others or even toward yourself. How have you tried to correct these ageist episodes/thoughts?
The second strategy is “Perspective Taking”. This is the idea of walking in someone else's shoes or imagining certain experiences from their perspective.
Shifting our focus means that we try to see things with a new lens. Here are three ways to do this!
And there you have it! Three very simple strategies to challenge our biases and assumptions about older adults. They take some effort to implement, but the benefits will help older adults live healthier, happier, AND longer. Don't believe me? Learn more here!
Challenging your assumptions and biases about older adults will not only benefit others... it will benefit YOU, as well. You'll find yourself living with a greater sense of grace and integrity in this world... and who doesn't want that?! And if that’s not reason enough, you, yourself will be an older adult one day, and don’t you want people to look at you in all of your complexity and not just whittle you down to a stereotype? Yeah. Me too!
Join me next week where I talk about older adults and depression. And no! Depression is NOT a normal part of aging.
I wanted to share with you an important freebie, that's something free, I made just for you. It's called, The Ultimate Caring for Aging Parents Checklist. This checklist will get you started with managing the most complicated situations with your aging parents, including how to start the conversation about needs and wishes with aging, a list of essential documents you'll need to gather, and strategies for taking care of yourself along the way. So, take a moment to download it.
Resources mentioned in this episode (and some extras)!
I'm a Stanford trained, Board Certified Clinical Psychologist specializing with older adults and families! I'm an Assistant Professor at Emory University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, and a staff Psychologist working with older adults and families at the Atlanta VA Health Care System. I'm a mom of two little kids and a daughter to aging parents.
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