This week, Allure Magazine announced that they will no longer use the term “anti-aging” in their publication. Their motivation is valid; anything you have to preface with “anti” must be bad, as in anti-war or anti-fungal. They back up their statement with a commitment to “change the conversation and celebrate the beauty in all ages.” In a world that’s obsessed with youth and airbrushed images – I applaud this courageous, noble goal! I want to join in and help change the conversation.
I say this as much for myself as anyone because after all, I am a woman. I admit that sometimes I struggle with the changes that happen as I age. The gray hairs and laugh lines are a stark contrast to the message I receive in glossy magazines and filtered Instagram posts – that my value is directly proportionate to my youth. Second only to youth, is the appearance of youth.
As the Allure team points out, “When talking about a woman over, say, 40, people tend to add qualifiers: ‘She looks great...for her age’ or ‘She’s beautiful...for an older woman.’” Why do we feel the need to validate the beauty we see in older people? I challenge you to catch yourself the next time you want to add a qualifier and consider what would happen if you just said, “She looks great.” Beyond that, how wonderful would it be if we did not place a focus on looks at all?
While Allure is taking a major stab at ageism in the beauty industry, we still have a long way to go in terms of fighting stigma. Every day, older adults are marginalized because of the false belief that they are less competent and less valuable to society. The Frameworks Institute recently partnered with a multitude of aging organizations including AARP, to publish a report on reframing the aging paradigm. The report lists actionable things we can do to refocus the aging conversation.
- Define it: Ageism is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. All of us have implicit, or built in, bias in this (and other) areas. Examples include discrimination in the workplace and older adults being undertreated or wrongly treated in health care settings. But awareness is the first step in changing.
- Switch the focus of the aging conversation from the negative. For example, instead of thinking that we won’t be able to handle all the needs of the “elderly” during the “silver tsunami,” focus on the positive. Seniors are a generation with collective ingenuity; let’s think of them as an untapped resource that can help solve the problem.
- Think of older years as gaining momentum and provide positive, though not too extreme (i.e. the 100 year old marathon runner), examples of older adults living full lives and contributing to society.
Whether or not we have an older person in our lives, we all have skin in this game because the lucky among us will one day be an older adult. Changing the perception of aging starts within ourselves and research shows that those who have a more positive perception of aging enjoy better health in their older years.
Cheers to Allure Magazine for taking a stand against ageism – and cheers to those who are in this with us.
Be Well on Purpose!