May 21, 2018

Destigmatising ageing: Part 2


Is there a critical mass of people interested in giving ageing a good name, and doing what it takes to give it a positive value?

Any such effort includes looking critically at what the media presents us with in views of ageing and old people, and drawing attention to the positive or the negative ways in which they are depicted. And right now, in May 2018, a cluster of three media items have popped up as salutary examples of the sorts of depictions that I believe are asking for public comments one way or the other.

On 6 May, one of the cover stories in Fairfax’s Sunday Life was a feature on “How to age-proof your life.” Its sub-heading? “We may be getting older, but that doesn’t mean we need to age. Shane Watson reveals how to stay unstoppable.” Without going into all the detail of the rules that were set down to “age-proof your life”, the over-riding feature of each was that it countered some explicitly stated negative stereotype of old people. These included, for example, “nostalgia wallowers”, “moaners”, “health freaks”, “pessimists”, and “advertising their rusty old joints” while topped with “more matronly hair”.

A letter will be going to Sunday Life about that!

On the same day, in The Sun-Herald, there was an advertising feature for an aged care facility. The introductory text read very positively, as follows:

“Ageing may be seen as a stigma by some in our society, but not for long if Mark and Evette Moran have their say.

“‘Ageing is not a stigma – it’s beautiful,’ say the co-founders of the Mark Moran Group. “So celebrate, be joyful. You’ve live a good life and you’re going to continue to live a good life.

“That ethos shapes Mark Moran Little Bay, the group’s seaside aged care facility in Sydney’s east.”

And the rest of the text was expressed in a similar and very positive, age-accepting way. And was accompanied by great photos of happily engaged old people, wearing their age unabashedly. So, why oh why did the prominent print read “Aged care for the young at heart”!! Words fail. But not for long. Mark Moran will be hearing from me about that.

And fortunately, meanwhile, a marvelous rebuttal of these two views of ageing can be found in the Woman’s Day of 7 May. The heading is – I would have to say – a rarity in women’s magazines, where anti-ageing is queen. So, all credit for the invitation to “Fall in love with ageing….YES, REALLY!” [sic]. And the sub-heading continues the message: “Psychologist Dr Samantha Clarke explains why getting older isn’t all doom and gloom.”

And she does so with a vengeance, highlighting great ways of thinking and being as an older person, up to and including (with the help of a sex therapist) suggestions for firing up “your long-term love,” and with absolutely no suggestion that staying young is a part of any of that.

A letter will be going to Woman’s Day too.

And if enough of us make our voices heard, what changes might we be able to achieve?

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