There are so many things we often misunderstand in life, like words, actions, intentions, and aging. For the longest I've heard people talk about aging as if it's something that only happens to a specific age group, or there's a designated timeframe when one finally begins to age. Well, guess what?! According to Maury's lie detector test (look up the Maury Povich show), that is a lie and NOBODY is exempt from aging, unless the person is dead.
The misunderstanding of aging could be credited to myths, stereotypes, or simply lacking knowledge of what aging truly means. Not only is there a misunderstanding of what aging is, but we also treat it as if it looks the same for everyone. For example, there's the myth that once you reach a certain age, life is downhill from there. Not necessarily. The experiences that we have are what shape our outcomes as we're aging, not our actual age. If we gain an understanding of what aging is and that it's not one size fits all, it could potentially change the negative ways we talk/feel about it and have a positive impact on our aging experience. Let's go a little further with this discussion.
What Does It Mean to Age?
To age means to become older and that is okay, it's not a bad thing. As I've seen quoted numerous times, "aging means we're living." Aging is unique and inevitable. It looks different for everyone and the process of aging brings about physical, mental, and social changes that affects us in some way. Since aging is continuous, a lot of times we don't really realize how much has changed with us until we do the #10yearchallenge on social media, or we experience something with our bodies, or we begin to see grey pubes (see the meme here).
There's no rulebook to how one should age, which gives us the option to do it however we please! Aging is truly a journey full of lessons, mistakes, challenges, for some people, health scares, and much more. The more open we are to embrace aging and how it affects us differently, the better off we are.
Three Reasons for Why Understanding Aging Is NOT One Size Fits All Is Important
Discussion about the aging process, at times, can be so polluted with misinformation, discouragement and ageism, which is harmful. This is why knowing aging is not one size fits all is so important and here's a few reasons with explanation:
Freedom to age how we want: As I mentioned earlier the way we experience aging is different for everyone. There are no rules. The way you want to dress, who you want to date/marry, what you want to eat, when you want to have a baby/or not, or even when you want to retire is all your choice! The freedom of this comes when we create our own expectations of aging and not base them on someone else's.
We can address matters that affect our aging experience: When we live life the way a person tells us, at times we may overlook or potentially neglect matters that can affect our aging experience. For example, when someone tells you what is appropriate/inappropriate clothing for your age, that can be harmful. If you were to receive that type of advice, you could be limiting yourself from expressing who you are, exploring and learning new things. We can address this matter by making the choice to do what we feel is best for us and our aging experience.
It's one way to disrupt #ageism: Ageism can hit us hard in many areas of our lives. One of the ways it hits us, that I don't think we're fully aware of, is through compliments. Compliments and comments such as "you haven't aged a bit" or "I'm not aging, I'm growing," can be challenged and re-worded once we grasp the fact that aging happens and looks different for everyone. Next time someone says "you haven't aged a bit," just hit them with a little LL Cool J when you respond. Tell that person, "I'm actually aging right now and doin' it, doin' it, doin' it well."
The More You Know
One thing that everyone has in common is we're all aging. However, the commonality stops there as we begin to experience different challenges, changes, and outcomes from aging. Let's be mindful of when we're categorizing people as it relates to their age, judging people for how their aging, and how we talk about aging in general.
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