In this section I want to point out 2 attitudes that are destructive to the quality of life for those over 50:
1) those in that age group tend to exaggerate the negative effects of aging (physical, cognitive, cultural, etc.)
2) those in that age group tend to ignore the distinct advantages (experience, wisdom, focus, empathy, etc.) of age
Those are all just choices, and in changing them, we reinvent the concept of aging.
The current paradigm of aging is that society gives lip service to involving people over 50 in spite of our “no longer youthful” status, while at the same time regarding them as irrelevant in every practical way. Meanwhile, those who are over 50 believe the best they can hope for personally is to maintain some dignity in spite of this unpleasant and undesirable condition known as “old”.
It appears obvious to me that both of those attitudes are feeding each other, and it makes me ask the “chicken or the egg” question: did society’s discriminatory attitude cause the personal self-dismissal, or did the personal self-dismissal cause society to value us less?
What appears obvious is that modern society does not respect age and wisdom (some cultures are better about this than others). This is evident in hiring practices, healthcare, the dearth of products and services designed for older populations, and much more. From that, the premise is that society has deemed the upper age groups to be largely irrelevant, and that this paradigm can’t be changed for the simple reason that “society” is a flat system with no hierarchy of leadership and responsibility. Therefore, anything that “society” has determined must just be accepted as ‘the way things are’: unchangeable and unactionable. What is less obvious is how and why this ever became the paradigm.
Nevertheless, without society’s respect the older population feels understandably powerless and apologetic and more or less dependent upon the grace of people who will keep them busy and feeling wanted, often by taking advantage of the prevailing attitude by “allowing” older adults to work at part-time minimum wage jobs that even teenagers won’t take. Not a pretty picture, this.
That all may appear true and just an unquestionable fact of life, unless… the premise is wrong.
What if, in fact, the egg came first. What if older populations—somewhere along the way—sought pity more than power for the condition known as aging, and thereby devalued themselves in the eyes of society? And what if, then, society did what society always does and just went along with the prevailing self-attitude, reflecting that devalued attitude back on the group?
The implications of that new premise is profound; if the ‘victims’ are, essentially, the cause of their own discrimination, they aren’t really victims at all. Rather, simply living out their self-imposed limitations; however unwittingly.
But where and how did the original notion of seeking pity more than power come from? I’m certain it wasn’t a conscious choice, but how could it ever become a choice at all? Could it have started with institutions like social security and retirement benefits? Or any other system that sends the signal that a class of people are no longer capable of contributing. I don’t know the answer, but I’m convinced it’s important that we all consider the possibilities.
If you, like me, are over 50, the bottom line is, of course, that we are in fact in complete control of society’s attitudes about age. And, most excitingly, when we exercise that control, before society even catches on to the change, it will cease to matter to us because we’ll be living a great life in spite of any external opinion.
When we seek only respect though delivering value, and refuse to accept the handouts and castaways of life’s qualities—in short, when we return to acting like and thinking like the younger versions of ourselves—we will be free of this disabling cycle.
There are, of course, physiological changes that take place as we age. But the truth about that will come as a surprise: if you are causing your life to thrive in every way (what I will teach you here), those changes will be nearly imperceptible. That’s right… imperceptible. That’s quite a contrast to what most people believe, and how they act.
The difference that occurs with age in humans is usually only acknowledged as an excuse for ostracization of some kind, be it job or other kinds of discrimination, or a dearth of products and services targeted to the over-50 demographic. You and I create that attitude each time we try to convince ourselves and each other that there is no distinction by clinging to youth and trying to look and act younger than we are, and then revel in the congratulations we receive for succeeding. We damage our own prospects and those of others our age each time we do that.
I’ve got notebooks full of concrete reasons why you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams in the Second Half of life, if you really want to. I’ll be putting them down for you to learn as time goes on. They are just as much about how you feel as they are about what you have, but it is success nonetheless.
Here’s what I need you to do right now so that you can be fully prepared to take advantage of the mission we have: pay attention to any tendencies you may have to apologize for your age or blame anything on it in normal conversation, or even in your own mind. No matter what others say, no matter what the societal attitudes are, making the world a better place for people in the Second Half of life starts with you and what you think and say. This is how we reinvent age, and it’s so much more exciting when we’re all in it together.