part of getting older and that feeling lonely, depressed, sad or worried are part of it as well.
“Some older adults may laugh it off like it’s no big deal, but they may internalize it, and these internalized ageism beliefs and stereotypes may be the most harmful,” Allen shares. When internalized, ageism can affect mental and physical health, she adds.
“Like other -isms, ageism is a source of stress, and people have a stress response, so we expect the physical reactions will be the same,” Allen says.
Stress, we’ve all been there, right? In most cases, stress isn’t a huge cause of concern. However, once we start to internalize it and it becomes recurring, it can have an effect on our health.
Stress is known to increase heart rate, blood pressure, interfere with sleep, and dampen the immune system’s ability to fight off viruses, among other negative consequences.
Flipping the script
It’s time to flip the script, Allen says. “We need to recognize older adults as individuals, not stereotypes, and we should think about aging as another life stage as opposed to one marked by decline and demise,” she says.
Sarkisian says the study calls attention to a persistent problem. “The amount of ageism that is still tolerated is horrible,” she notes.
Older adults are the one group people are still allowed to make fun of, and this is not OK, Sarkisian adds. An older adult may internalize this prejudice and discrimination and that can affect his or her quality of life, she says.
Unfortunately, as we age we are at a higher risk for more health conditions. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a direct reflection of something you didn’t do right in your life when you were younger.
“Despite best efforts, people are going to develop health conditions with advancing age, and we don’t want people to feel like they failed at aging if they do,” she says.
The good news is despite the obstacles thrown your way, you can thrive in life at any age. Many older people lead full and active lives despite their health conditions, Sarkisian says.
The next time you have any negative thoughts about your age or appearance, think about all you’ve accomplished in your life. Aging is a blessing and a sign of wisdom. In this short life, many people don’t have the luxury of aging.