Aging in a Youth Focused Society

Last week, along with five other experts in the field of aging, I was invited to give a presentation to employees of the County of Roanoke in Virginia.  My presentation focused on aging in a youth-oriented society.

Aging Actress with Face Lift

Most people in our society dread the idea of aging and/or dying.  Either or both are inevitable parts of our life experience and the sooner we acknowledge this, the better prepared we will be when it catches up with us.  Because we do not want to confront our aging process or death, we enable the medical and beauty industries to make millions.   In the end, however, these two realities of life will triumph.

In my presentation last week, I covered the many different ways in which we can better prepare ourselves for the “twilight” years.  We need to face our aging and become friends with it.  This is not an easy thing to do in our youth focused society.  The first step to altering our feelings about aging is to recognize just how much society, through media, advertising, and Hollywood enhances a negative view of aging (I will write more extensively on this in a later blog).

During my presentation, I showed a favorite video (see below)in which a couple, Richard and Alice Matzkin, decided to confront their aging process.  I really love this video and their story.  I think I resonate with it so much because, just as all of us who are noticing more wrinkles on our face, or more aches in our joints or whatever aging indicators are starting to take over, their initial fear and upset may seem familiar.  Over and above the familiarity of their initial reaction, however, was the positive approach they decided to take in confronting their aging process.

I suggested to my audience that the time to plan for one’s later years should be when they have the energy and motivation to take the actions that are needed to establish an environment that will enable them to age gracefully.  This is when one can handle remodeling, if that is the decision.  A universally designed space can allow parents and children as well as couples who may have a disability to interact with their environment fully.  Not only should we be reflecting on our personal spaces, but also the larger areas in which we reside.

Liveable communities, the concept that neighborhoods have easy access to shopping, medical care, parks, entertainment, transportation, and safety, along with affordable housing, is another idea that can only benefit everyone across the generations, whether young professionals, parents, or the elderly.  But the time when we have the energy to solicit our local politicians is before we get to that point in our aging process.

If one has decided that they will go the retirement community route, one should take the time to visit several before making a decision.  Each community has its own personality.  Ask to see all levels of care since the assisted living and nursing care will be your environment in your more vulnerable stages.

Communes are familiar to the baby boomer generation and it might be worth exploring the idea of sharing home space, or at least share with neighbors expenses for those tasks that become more difficult for us to accomplish as we age.

My hope is that the audience came away with an understanding that we can be pro-active in how our older years will unroll before us and it does not have to be all negative.

© Yvonne Behrens, M.Ed  2011