There’s an emboldened energy in the air these days — as more and more groups and individuals speak up about past and present injustices and absurdities. This started after the 2016 presidential election, when many (me included) woke up feeling defeated and despondent. The positive news: I see now that sometimes (often times?) it takes a jolt like this to wake us up and remind us that we have a voice, that we can take actions in small and big ways for a better life and a better world.
I’m feeling emboldened for another reason. I turned 60 last year and entered a new decade. To be honest, I had to seriously contemplate this milestone birthday before it happened. But by now, I’m excited about this new life chapter and am determined to make the years ahead count in the biggest way possible.
I’ve always been open about my interest and passion for the aging field. I’m in this because I want my later life experience to be far better than it is for too many today. I also see how much more important this quest is, now that I’m closer to the endpoint. This doesn’t mean I’m naïve about aging. I’ve spent a lifetime around Olders — in my personal life and in my career in the aging field — and have seen the good, bad, and ugly of what old can mean.
I’ve also felt the sting of ageist job discrimination. My needed hip replacement last year expanded my understanding of how disabling physical “wear and tear” can be as we age. I see the expanding wrinkles on my face — and the growing crepey skin covering my body — and have felt people treat me as “lesser” because of this. And I’ve already been called “Sweetie” by total strangers — something not appreciated in the least.
The positive news (again): These experiences have emboldened me to speak out even more about changing the way we view and respond to aging in positive and creative ways. It’s not well known, but my birth year (1957) was the peak of the post-WWII Baby Boom. This means a whole bunch of us entered this new decade last year, preceded by another huge group of Boomers and followed by more to come.
There’s power in numbers. We’re all old enough now to start having our say about the kind of later life we want. And we’re young enough with a big enough chunk of time to have an impact — and make a real difference for our future and what it can mean to be old in our society.
Good thing, because we have lots of work to do. Even though renowned Geriatrician Dr. Robert Butler coined the term “ageism” back in the 1960s, this concept — and how severely damaging it can be — is really only beginning to come to light, because of the growing aging population. I predict it will become an even bigger topic, as more people feel its sting. It could easily spark the next “Me Too” movement. I hope so. It’s very much needed.
Like other groups that have been demeaned in our society, we need to start speaking up and taking positive action because our Age Wave is on its way. It’s building by the day as we Boomers grow older, and it’s being bolstered by gains in life expectancy. Many fear that we’ll cause a Silver Tsunami, instead of creating the dawn of a Silver Sunrise where older people can serve as a great resource for our economy and society.
The deciding factor for what happens is up to us. We can become the disaster many predict.
Or we can take on big Age Wave opportunities like the ones Dr. Butler laid out in his book "The Longevity Revolution" and transform:
- Negative stereotypes about aging.
- The personal experience of aging.
- Cultural attitudes about aging.
With the emboldened energy in the air, it’s a perfect time for us to join in and raise our voices and be bolder too. We can create a better future for all of us — and for everyone who becomes old. Let’s not wait another minute. Let’s get started now.
“I believe profoundly that if we can get beyond our prejudices and preconceived notions about aging, the odds favor the growth of an active, engaged, and productive older population that once and for all buries the myths of selfish and useless old age.”
— Dr. Robert Butler