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Facts for All Ages

Aging in a Positive Light


From the time you are born, you start to age. Everyone on this earth is aging. The word "aging" is associated with positive words like "wisdom", "timeless", "experienced". But it also generates as many or more negative words and visuals. Why is there such a negative perception of aging or getting older? It might be that many people see old age as a time filled with disability, vulnerability, dependence and eventually death. According to a study by the FrameWorks Institute regarding public misconceptions about aging in 2015, the majority of the participants equated aging with decline, loss, slowing and breaking down. Negativity for aging is heightened even more due to our society and media's portrayal of the process and those that are older. Just think about all those "over the hill" birthday cards out there – funny, but also perpetuating many myths around getting older.

The term "ageism" was coined in 1969 by Dr. Robert Butler and means "a systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old." Older adults experience ageism a variety of ways. Through the healthcare system by being over or under treated due to their age. It can also limit their ability to find employment, and it can affect the types of roles they hold in their communities. And unlike racism and sexism – ageism will affect everyone because we are all aging! But the Frameworks study also found many things that Millennials, Generation Xers, and Baby Boomers had in common with each other:

  • 95% of the respondents believed that they were still learning – 80% claimed they learned something new (like a language, class, skill) in the past year.
  • All 3 generations reported that they laughed several times a day
  • All 3 reported that they are complimented often/all the time
  • All 3 agreed that getting older is about staying vital, not about staying young
  • All 3 reported that they exercise 30 minutes at least once a week or more– and a small higher % of baby boomers actually reported their overall health as being excellent/very good as compared to the other 2 groups.
  • Millennials reported a higher per month average of forgetting things than the other 2 groups (18 times vs 14 times per month.)
  • More Baby Boomers (85%) reported feeling "pretty in control of my life" – higher than the other 2 groups

We also see and hear on the news and social media, examples of individuals who have aged well and did not achieve their most notable accomplishments until later in life and/or they continue to do amazing things at later ages – just watch the Nike commercial featuring the "Iron Nun" Sister Madonna Buder!! So what are their secrets for successful aging?

Some of the characteristics that contribute to aging positively include: eating well, being active, challenging yourself intellectually, maintaining a positive attitude, being social and having purpose. These factors and knowledge of resources can help you to stay healthier longer while improving your quality of life. Extension Family Life Educators including myself are currently organizing healthy aging summit to be held in various locations this Fall. These summits are called "Aging: Everybody's Doing It"  Extension Educators who will focus on topics that assist in positive aging. To find out locations and dates, just go to the Extension website at www.extension.illinois.edu and look under the calendar tab. These summits should be informative and fun!


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