Many of the past few lectures in my developmental psychology class have been about old age. This has really got me thinking about what it truly means to be an older adult and how our society perceives older adults. When people think of old age, they often accompany it with negative feelings. They assume older people are lonely and sad, likely fretting over their approaching death. However, as I’ve read articles and watched interviews on older adults, I’ve discovered nothing could be further from the truth. While old age is accompanied with many challenges for the individual, it is also a liberating time in their life.They have more free time and less responsibilities. They are enlightened from a lifetime of experiences, while still being able to make new experiences everyday.
I feel like it’s very unfortunate people begin seeing older adults as done with their life, while they are still living it. Just because their “youth ” may have passed, it does not mean they are already dead. This is backed up by a short video I recently watched called “Not Dead Yet”.
I don’t think it could be any more perfectly named. It focuses on a famous 93 year old producer named Norman Lear. We watch as his does a casting session for a comic series he hopes to produce about older adults in a retirement community. The 70 and 80 year olds that show up for casting are delightful and not at all self-conscious or nervous about being watched. Mr. Lear also makes a good point about how older adults are often ignored by the media, despite the huge amount of people that fit into that category. Older adults form a major audience base that is essentially being untapped.
This overlooking of older adults seems to be an unfortunate trend that I would like to see change. When I first started thinking about what my life would be like when I’m 70, I was filled with dread and apprehension just like many other young adults, I’m sure. However, the more experience I started to have watching positive older adults embrace their age, the more relaxed about the future I started to feel. I think having older adults come out of the shadows and start to speak up about themselves, like Norman Lear did, would help change the perception our society has about aging adults. It’s important to remember that old age is a gift, not a curse.
Cultural Fun Fact!
In Japan, there is a national holiday called “Respect for the Aged Day” on the 3rd Monday of September. Unlike Grandparents Day in the US, Respect for the Aged Day is a paid holiday that people get off from work. Bento boxes and other gifts are given to the elderly and families are expected to celebrate and have a special meal with their elders.