Despite advances in education it seems that stereotypes are still alive and well. Where do stereotypes come from and why do we let them influence how we think, act and feel? Older individuals are often thought of as being slow, enfeebled, and in the way. Old people are often thought of as being self centered, opinionated and not open to new information. How can this be? I’m not like that, are you?
Unfortunately we all know one or more people who do exhibit those qualities. It bothers me when I hear older people make negative and disparaging remarks about themselves. It also bothers me when I see them behave badly.
It’s not right. People need to get along. It is a shame that a few people behaving badly tarnish the image of a large segment of the population. I don’t see myself as feeble, slow, in the way, nonproductive, crotchety, opinionated, or resistant to new ideas and doubt if you do either.
Stereotypes undermine all of us. Look closely at your own thoughts and feelings. You aren’t one of “them” are you? Slow down and listen to yourself. Do you hear yourself bad-mouthing other groups, talking about the “old days,” and thinking that you are too old to travel or learn new things? Remember, a stereotype is a label; it is a way to classify people. Stereotypes are wrong. The trouble is that many seniors believe that rude surly behavior is okay. They believe that stereotypes, even the ones about themselves, are true. We can change those behaviors, one senior at a time.
If you elbow someone out of the way, or use your age as an excuse for your behavior, you are sending a lousy message. If you look and act like a curmudgeon, you make people think that all older people are that way. Instead of getting angry when someone honks at you for driving too slowly try to problem solve instead. Look, listen and respond courteously. Educate yourself and find out why you are being perceived as a problem. Take senior safe driving classes, be polite and helpful, show an interest in others, and learn new things. Things were not better in the good old days and you are not too old to learn or try something new.
All seniors are not the same. Think of yourself as active and able to learn. Compensate for limitations, contribute to your community and be sensitive to the need for courtesy. Remember when your mom used to ask if you were brought up by wolves or lived in a barn? Well stop acting that way. Develop a new network of friends, volunteer, look forward instead of backwards and lighten up a little. Enjoy yourself. Break the cycle by setting a good example. It is time for a new view of aging.