I’ve officially been calling myself a “snow bird” for the past several years. My husband and I travel to Florida during the winter months each year to escape the cold weather and enjoy some quiet time at the beach.
Although I thought I would be bored to tears and miss home; I’ve learned to embrace this time in my life.
Now that I’ve accepted the fact that I’m considered a “senior” and a snow bird, I’ve found myself reflecting more on the aging process. It blows my mind that in two years I will be sixty!?! Where has the time gone?? I still feel like I’m only in my forties and have to remind myself often that I’m now falling into the DREADED categories of: senior, geriatric, old lady, over the hill etc. Yes, if you live long enough, not only will you have to deal with gray hair and wrinkles, you will most likely be subjected to ageism. Merriam Webster defines
Definition of ageism
: prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly
Becoming older is a privilege denied to many,” the saying goes. But, are you excited about getting older? When I ask my students this question they often say things like, “No way!” and follow with a list of negative stereotypes describing older adults as sick, unhappy, slow, and sexually inactive. How do so many of us, including myself, come to this conclusion?
The aging population (i.e., individuals 65 and over) around the world is growing. In the U.S. alone, one in seven persons is now an older American, and this number is expected to double by 2060. As we’ve previously discussed here at Sociology In Focus with other concepts (seasons, time, etc.) aging is also socially constructed.
A Youth Obsessed Society
The U.S. has often been described as a youth obsessed society. Some have argued that aging is a fate worse than death. During 2014, nearly 13 billion dollars was spent on plastic surgery with the bulk of procedures performed on women 40 and older. The sale of anti-aging skin care products is also a booming business. U.S. consumers now spend more on anti-aging medications than on drugs for disease. Clearly people are feeling pressure to maintain their youth.
It’s no wonder that once we pass the ripe old age of thirty-nine, many of us turn to desperate measures such as Botox and plastic surgery. Therefore, along with our shrinking self-image comes a multitude of other potential issues such as an increased risk for health problems and immobility.
Loss of mobility, which is common among older adults, has profound social, psychological, and physical consequences. “If you’re unable to get out then you can’t go shopping, you can’t go out with your friends to eat dinner or go to the movies, and you become dependent on other people to get you places. So you become a recluse, you stay home, you get depressed. With immobilization comes incontinence, because you can’t get to the bathroom, you can develop urinary infections, skin infections. The list goes on,” says geriatrician Dr. Suzanne Salamon, an instructor at Harvard Medical School.
The cascade of negative effects that comes with immobility can often be prevented or limited, according to a review in today’s JAMA. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham looked at dozens of mobility studies published over the years. They discovered common factors that lead to loss of mobility, such as older age, low physical activity, obesity, impaired strength and balance, and chronic diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. Less common red flags included symptoms of depression, problems with memory or thinking skills, being female, a recent hospitalization, drinking alcohol or smoking, and having feelings of helplessness. Individuals with one or more of these factors is at risk for immobility.
A greater risk of health issues and immobility reinforces the importance of optimizing your health as you get older. For this very reason, I’m fortunate to be employed in the health and fitness industry that requires me to stay active and make healthy food choices.
However, along with that comes a increased focus on body image by my peers and clients. It’s common to see images of young, muscular, fit people in health and fitness magazines, fitness infomercials, and television ads etc. Furthermore, most of my co-workers, and clients are in their early thirties and forties. Therefore I’ve begun to question how do I continue to work in the health and fitness industry at this stage of my life. How do I fight to keep up with a society that is consumed with youth, appearance, and selfies?
As a fitness instructor I constantly hear women comparing themselves to others, complaining about their age, scrutinizing their bodies, appearance, and fitness level. Over the years, I’ve seen many resort to plastic surgery for breast implants, liposuction, face lifts, and Botox. I on the other hand have decided against any nips, tucks, or enhancements. I know it’s crazy, but I’ve accepted that I’m getting older and I’m determined to age gracefully the “good old-fashioned way!”
At this stage in my life, I’m surprised that I find myself comfortable with my appearance, my body, and my fitness level. I actually have more self-confidence than I ever had in my 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. My goal is to simply age with style and grace. I plan to take care of myself by simply exercising and making healthy food choices.
Simply put, my goal is to promote healthy aging. I truly believe “age is just a number.” Your lifestyle, food choices, and activity level play a huge part in how you age. The picture below is a picture of me and my dad when I was in my thirties.
Now fast forward twenty years to my current picture below at the age of 58. Yes I have wrinkles around my eyes and I look older but that is a part of life. My point is that many people simply stop taking care of themselves as they get older. It’s typical to slow down once your children are gone and we transition from a busy work career and family life to empty nest and retirement. It’s this sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices that causes rapid aging, weight gain, and increased risk for disease.
Although many experts report that losing weight after forty will make you look older, the truth is weight gain makes you look older. Quite often as we age, weight accumulates in the mid section, which can put strain on the heart, muscles, and joints. Ultimately these lifestyle choices increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes. The key is to maintain a healthy stable weight as you age. It’s the yo-yo dieting and the drastic weight loss that causes the face to look drawn and appear more wrinkled.
So how do we maintain good health and a more youthful appearance as we age? How can we live life in our golden years without filters, Photoshop, and going under the knife? As much as we would like to believe in magic weight loss pills and procedures. There are no tricks; these methods don’t work.
We all age and no amount of liposuction, face-lift, Botox, or weight loss gimmicks are going to make us look twenty again. Learn to love yourself, your wrinkles, your age, and your life experience. The answer to aging with no filter is simple. All you have to do is work hard, eat right, and don’t give up.
For more tips on aging gracefully check out my article, Age Gracefully With These Five Tips