September 10

Healthy Aging Month and Combatting Ageism

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

With September designated as Healthy Aging Month, the focus of my Blog today is on Ageism in the United States.

I have to admit that when it comes to this issue, I am by no means unbiased.

Professionally, I have been involved in senior living and health care for nearly 45 years. I have had the opportunity to work with hospitals, health care systems, retirement living, assisted living and memory care communities from coast to coast. Our company, Gardant Management Solutions, is especially focused on providing assisted living and memory care that is affordable to individuals of all incomes. 

Personally, I celebrated my 69th Birthday last week. This time next year, God-willing, I will be entering my 8th decade of life.

During my lifetime, I have enjoyed a wide variety of experiences and have lived through many major events. They include, just to name a few, the Cold War; assassinations of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.; the Cuban Missile Crisis; Viet Nam War and Anti-War Protests; establishment of Medicare and Medicaid; the space race that led up to Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon; Watergate; oil embargoes that resulted in around-the-block lines of cars, with drivers hoping there would be enough gas left at the station to fill up their tank; predictions of a coming Ice Age; tearing down of the Berlin Wall; 9/11; the enactment of the Affordable Care Act; and now the coronavirus pandemic.

Oh, and since I am a die-hard Cubs fan, the 2016 World Series.

Healthy Aging Month was created by Carolyn Worthington, the editor of Healthy Aging Magazine. The purpose is to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older and to dispel myths about aging.

In some other parts of the world, old age is celebrated. Elders are treated with the utmost reverence and respect. Their knowledge, wisdom and expertise gained from years of accumulated experiences are valued. Death is not feared; it is accepted as a part of life.

Here in the United States, our culture has become increasingly youth-centric. “It’s All about the Children” has become a common rallying cry.

Older adults are often viewed as being senile, incompetent, and a burden on our resources. They often are the brunt of jokes.

Many, as they age, try to cover up the physical signs of aging.

A story by Joe Kita posted on the AARP website on Dec. 30, 2019, noted that age discrimination in the workplace still flourishes here in the United States. A special Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report found that even though Congress outlawed age discrimination in the workplace 50 years ago, it “remains a significant and costly problem.” Click here to read more from AARP.

Our views on aging impact how we engage with and treat older adults; our social and civic engagements; and political policies and decisions at the national, state and local levels.

With the first waves of the Silver Tsunami already hitting our country, the need to combat ageism is of growing importance.

Focusing on the positive aspects of growing older and dispelling myths about aging are important elements in battle.

We need to emphasize that frailty and memory loss that disrupt daily life are not normal parts of aging and that while the speed in which older adults can process information may slow down with age, the wisdom that comes from all of the knowledge and experiences accumulated over the years can more than make up for it.

There are places in the world where the rates of heart disease and cancer are significantly lower than in the United States; places where people are much less likely to develop chronic medical conditions as they age; where people live long, robust, happy and purposeful lives well into their 80s, 90s and 100s before passing away.

As Jeff Rubin points out in the forward to his book: “Wisdom of Age: Insights from One Generation to Another,” the presumption should be that “people of all ages are afforded the opportunity to realize their potential for physical, social, spiritual and mental well-being throughout their lives.”

To combat ageism, we need to rethink how we think about growing older, both individually and as a society.

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