The question is, “What if nearly everything we think we know about
aging is wrong?” For example, what if we’re getting better
with age? This change in perspective could change attitudes about aging
not just for individuals but how we treat those who are older than us
and in need of assistance.
Thought leaders such as Dr. Bill Thomas, MD, founder of the
Eden Alternative, and Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of
AARP, have been bringing these questions up to generate discussion and hopefully
to create change. “Aging is good,” Dr. Thomas says in a TEDx
presentation. “We’ve been told, we’ve been instructed,
that the problem is aging, but that’s wrong. Aging is not the problem;
it’s our obsession with youth.”
It’s Not a Fight—Not One You Can Win Anyway
Enough with adages like “50 is the new 30” and “anti-aging”
say these experts. “All of the experts on aging are anti-aging gurus,”
states Dr. Thomas, whose specialty is geriatric medicine which is a woefully
understaffed field. “The anti-aging movement might completely dominate
the media and publishing—I think it does. The anti-aging industry
might pump out billions of dollars of profit, but I’m not worried.
I actually accept aging. I embrace aging and I endorse aging because it
is aging that is going to save us.”
The bottom line is that aging is part of the human condition. “In
the entire history of the world, not one person has grown young,”
Dr. Thomas says.
In other words, no amount of anti-aging will turn back the clock and maybe
we shouldn’t even desire that. Instead, being over 50 is a time
for renewal, a time to celebrate being alive and having learned a few
lessons over the years.
Change Begins Within
What’s ageism? In his TEDx talk, Dr. Thomas explains it like this:
“If you go around making jokes based on another person’s gender,
that’s sexism. If you make jokes about another person’s race,
that’s racism. But if you joke about somebody’s age, that’s
called situation comedy.”
Ha? His point is that as a society we have accepted ridiculing age, that
it’s OK to put someone down for not being able to do certain activities
because of their age—or to assume that they can’t do something,
such as their job.
“Ageism is alive and well,” says Ms. Jenkins in an interview
on the Dr. Phil show to promote her book,
Disrupt Aging: A Bold New Path to Living Your Best Life at Every Age. “It actually prevents people from living their best life.”
Not only has life expectancy increased significantly, the Baby Boomers
are creating a bubble of elders.
Ms. Jenkins suggests that people take control of how they see themselves
and how the plan for a longer life. “There are 10,000 people turning
65 every day, and that will continue for the next 14 years,” she
explains. “We need to get rid of these outdated stereotypes and
come up with new solutions so we can continue to age better.”
It’s what she calls “own your age” by taking control
of finances and health.
“How do we, in this extra 20 or 30 years that we are going to live,
start doing and becoming the person that we always wanted to be?”
Ms. Jenkins says. “How do we find our passion? How do we reimagine
who we are at 50-plus?”
In his Age of Disruption
tour, Dr. Thomas has created a combination of workshops and theater to convey
his message that “elderhood is rich, it’s deep and it’s
Not only can individuals change how they view themselves and approach life
at every age, but they can learn how they might treat the elders in their
life. This starts with seeing their value as people, not just as a diagnosis
or what the can no longer due because of their age.
To find out if the Age of Disruption tour will be in your town soon,
check the website.