Aging has got easier for America’s seniors but COVID may reinforce ageist notions

Published 8:30 am Sunday, January 30, 2022

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan 28 – It’s not how old you are; it’s how old you feel. Survey after survey show that the majority of senior citizens don’t feel like senior citizens. They feel younger and more active than they thought they’d be – whether you ask a 55 year old or a 70 year old. “When we were kids, old folks looked and acted old; today’s kids are amazed at the energy and spunk of 70 year olds and even 80 year olds they encounter,” says Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC].
Meantime, the COVID pandemic may be giving youngsters new ageist notions, she warns.
The Website https://brightside.me/ says it’s all because we each have our own biological clock and it rarely coincides with our biological age. American researchers have come to the conclusion that biological aging in recent years has been happening more slowly, which is why subsequent generations stay younger looking longer. The plain fact is that most of America’s 70 year olds and 80 year olds don’t feel or look their age these days
One study, the results of which were reported last year, compared two groups of seniors. The first group consisted of individuals who were born between 1910 and 1914. They were between the ages of 75 and 80 when they were interviewed and examined. Participants in the second group were born between 1938 and 1943. They, too, were evaluated in the same manner at the ages of 75 and 80. The results showed that those in the second group were stronger and living to older ages with better physical functioning.
Another study polled 2,000 individuals 65 years of age and older. Seventy-two percent of them reported feeling younger than their chronological ages might suggest and some 50% said they felt younger by 15 years.
Says AMAC’s Weber, these longevity statistics should be powerful weapons for combating the menace of ageism—the stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of their age. According to the Institute on Aging “Just because we age, doesn’t mean we should be treated differently because of it.” One would think that the fact seniors have been steadily becoming the majority in our population for quite some time might serve to discourage ageism; the statistics show that about 10,000 Americans celebrate their 65th birthdays each and every day. But it has done little to discourage the bias of aging.
The Reframing Aging Initiative [RAI] describes ageism as an implicit bias – the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that lead to snap judgments about older people. The RAI says ageism is bad for our health and for our economy. It makes us sick and costs “our nation billions in avoidable health care costs. Ageism [also] stifl­es the economy by limiting the participation of older workers, despite their years of experience.”
So how do these “unconscious attitudes” form. Some say it is due to the stereotyping by younger generations as a means of rebelling against the authority of their elders. That may be true and, if so, perhaps the pandemic has exacerbated the notion, according to Weber.
She cites an American Psychological Association [APA] report that COVID may reinforce ageist beliefs. The APA report cites Shevaun Neupert, PhD, a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, who says that messages “such as ‘stay home and protect your grandmother’ could both shape how younger people think about older adults now and how they themselves will think about being older as they age.  This is a transformational time to imagine how generations of people will experience aging now and in the future.”
CEO Weber believes, however, “it is always important to remember ‘It’s not how old you are; it’s how old you feel’.”
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The 2.4 million member Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] www.amac.us is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members. AMAC Action is a non-profit, non-partisan organization representing the membership in our nation’s capital and in local Congressional Districts throughout the country.