Ageism Is Discrimination
Ageism: Will You Be Part Of The Solution
Join the Unconditional Aging Movement
I love a personal challenge! On my 70th birthday I decided to take up body surfing. Hopefully I will catch a wave before I reach my 71st birthday!
I am motivated, excited and enthusiastic about every challenge I take on. From experience I have found that the best thing about a personal challenge is that I do not have the burden of other peoples expectations. I can stop, start or just slow down depending on how I wake up in the morning.
Unconditional aging is my latest challenge to raise awareness that ageism is discrimination and has no place in the 21st century. I ask you to join me, as step by step, retiree by retiree we fight back at ageism!
Of course, there is a good chance that our affect against ageism will be small but what fun we will have in the process!
“Fight ageism! Unconditional aging is our goal”
What is Unconditional Aging
Every movement needs a name and I found that the definition of the word “unconditional” described the real potential that aging could and should have in our society.
Definition of “unconditional”: absolute, full, complete, perfect, entire, positive, total, unrestricted,unreserved,unlimited
The Birth of the Unconditional Aging Movement
When I was teaching I had the opportunity to ask a group of teenagers what they thought getting older would mean for them. Although their answers were all negative (not surprisingly) I did not feel they were being “ageist”. The problem lies in their reality. They had little or no contact with active seniors who could challenge their stereotypical view. Their responses were simply a reflection of their experiences. However, it is likely that ageism discrimination will eventually creep into their psyche. Hence, my one women, personal challenge to break the mold of stereotypical aging!
A Teenage View On Aging
- Physical changes; “Old people don’t care what they look like”
- Loneliness: “Old people are unhappy because a lot of them live on their own and don’t have any friends”
- Health problems “Old people are sick a lot”
- Lifestyle: “It’s boring when you get old”
- Employment: “You can’t get a job when you are old”
- Brain changes: “A lot of old people get a bit nutty as they get older!”
- Role changes: “Old people don’t do anything they just sit around waiting to die!”
- Depression: “Most old people look sad!
Personal Guide to Unconditional Aging
Fighting Ageism By Example
Step One: Think About It
For those of you who do not understand the pull of procrastination you will probably have planned for your retirement long before you get there. Your finances will be in order, dental work up to date and you will already have a well established health and fitness routine. Well done, carry on!
Procrastinators like myself will stumble into retirement with wide eyed innocence. However, the interesting thing about unconditional aging is that retirement is a great leveler and neither group is exempt its challenges. Step one begins with deciding which of these challenges you want to deal with. As my tag line is …….
“It’s Your Retirement…..Own It!” you decide what is important to you. My advice though is to choose something that gives you the best chance of success. Do not let ageism discrimination limit your choices.
Example: For financial reasons you have had to give up you gym membership, you’ve put on weight and find your self watching TV in the afternoon
Response: Fitness is free if you do your research. Facebook has links to walking groups, council run fitness groups (free or greatly reduced) I attend twice weekly free Tai Chi on the beach that I discovered at my local library. Read more on my Health and Fitness on a Budget post to find a solution that is right for you.
Step Two: Don’t Limit Your Social Network
One of the most unexpected downsides of retirement is that people you have known for many years through work do not always stay in your social network. Sad but true. Of course your real friends will still be there for you but your social network is going to shrink so be warned! The response is to be pro active. Take control and look further afield. If joining a club that is specifically for those in retirement scares you to death (it did for me) choose something with a more eclectic base. The list is endless, Rotary, Lions, choirs, Probus, crafts, etc etc. Take your time, do your research.
Do not be restricted by the confines of your pre-retirement life.
I chose to live on a houseboat and my boating neighbors certainly fit into the “eclectic” box! My post on retirement boredom has some ideas how you can re-vitalise your retirement. Active networking is the key to avoiding social isolation which my teenage researchers saw as a pre- requisite of being old!
Step Three: Keep Your Skills Fresh
You can do this by updating, adding to or part timing your previous employment. Some professions lend themselves to this better than others. Retired plumbers and electricians are in demand where I am but as a retired teacher/nurse I find little call on my skills other than emergencies and I can’t really charge for that! Updating or life long learning as always been expected in my work experience so I saw no reason to stop when I retired. I did however change my environment and took up sailing.
Step Four: Work From Home
Working from home is an attractive alternative for many who like the idea of being in charge of their time or want/need to supplement their retirement income. It does not have to be a continuation of your full time employment and there are a lot of advantages to going in a completely different direction. Read more about job opportunities in my “Jobs for Seniors Post”
Step Five: Find Your Purpose
Remember It’s Your Retirement….Own It!” Having a purpose is closely linked to our identity. In Western society our identity ties in with our age cycles e.g. child, student, worker, parent and “elderly” ! For each of these stages we have pre-conceived ideas of the lifestyle each of them may inhabit. What are your images of “elderly”? My un scientific teenagers gave theirs through ignorance but I have met many retirees who appear to have a self fulfilling prophecy to fit the bill! Finding a purpose begins with motivation. Or, as my mother used to say use it or lose it! In her case this meant keeping active within the limitations of her arthritis and as socially engaged as her finances allowed.
Volunteering is the easiest option as it ticks all the boxes. Meeting new people, learning new skills and contributing to society are only a few of the benefits you can expect. For those of you with sporting expertise you have the added advantage of being able to engage with the younger generation and, hopefully, changing some of their misconceptions of “retirement”. Read my best 5 Retirement Lifestyle Tips to start looking for a retirement lifestyle that gives you a reason to get up in the morning!
Step Six: Smile!
The positive effects of smiling has been studied and recorded since Darwin (1872) theorized that our emotional responses influence our feelings. He wrote that
“The free expression by outward signs of an emotion intensifies it,”
We now know that there is an area in the brain where happiness is registered!
A study from the Penn Sate found that people who smile also appear to be more likeable, courteous. competent. Another important characteristic of smiling is that it is contagious!
I put the contagion theory into practice dozens of times every day. I live on a Marina and people come and go along the dock continually. If I smile at a stranger 9 times out of 10 that person will smile back….contagious! Smiling also raises the self esteem of the person you are smiling at! If you need any more reasons to smile it also makes you look younger and more confident
Step Seven: Consider an Alternative Retirement Lifestyle
My family are used to my alternative approach to life in general so it’s no surprise to them that my retirement is continuing in the same vein! There is no shortage of information for conventional retirement where financial planning, mortgages, superannuation, wills and insurances are all worthwhile goals. However, if you have ever thought about doing things differently then retirement can provide you with the perfect opportunity to spread your wings. Here are some of the “alternatives” that will definitely challenge the thinking of those with preconceived ideas of what aging can be.
Alternative Lifestyle Options
No Ageism Discrimination Here!
- Boat living: No previous skills required if you live in a Marina!
- Caravanning is the land version of #1. In Australia you would be known as a Grey Nomad. Accommodation and casual work opportunities are the norm.
- House sitting: From personal experience this is my favourite and I intend to write more about it very soon! It is the easiest way to travel on a budget and really get to know the locals
- Relocating to where lifestyle is cheaper is an option for those who are really thinking outside the box.
- Volunteering appears to be one where you freely give of yourself to support a cause you believe in. My experience is that you receive more than you give
- Become a Home carer: If you have worked in the health system and have good health there are opportunities for live in carers. Some positions are suitable for married couples with one being the carer and the other a gardener.
- Park managers: One of my family members moved to Australia as a prelude to full retirement and began work in a caravan park. As he gained in experience he move up the ladder to become a manager and now has the option of traveling around as a Relieving Mangaer
- Motel relievers: Previous experience better but I was offered a position when I was looking for a house sit.
- Farm relievers: I also found these positions when I was looking for house sitting positions but I did have a lot of experience from my “farming” days as my Retirement Plan A explains.
- Sell your travels: This would be my absolute dream! Google in travel blogs and you will find senior entrapreneurs who make money out of their travels.
What can you do?
It starts with you! Questions you should ask yourself
- Have you ever accepted ageism discrimination? Do your cringe when you are referred to as “dear” or “sweetheart” but say nothing” (Guilty!)
- How do you feel about your own aging? Remember this is what you show others.
- Are you guilty of using ageism language? Are “senior moments” and “my brains too old for technology” part of your vocabulary?
- Who were your role models for aging” Have they coloured how you live your retirement?
- Do you know how to take responsibility for your aging. Do you actively seek out the new research on longevity, brain neuro-plasticity? Take a look at my TED talks for discussions that focus on positive aging on the role we play in achieving it.
- Have you ever thought about being an activist against ageism. Could you start a consciousness-raising group or maybe just drop it into the conversation at a club you belong to?
- Do you question negative attitudes to the elderly when ever you have the opportunity?
- Do you speak up when you encounter ageist behavior or attitudes.
- Do you have the skills to join forces with others to educate young people about ageism as being unacceptable as any other form of prejudice. Schools today have a curriculum that encourages senior citizens to share their histories. The plus side of this initiative is that it is an opportunity to present ourselves as individuals rather than the “old people” that my original teenagers saw.