Are you living in fear of getting old? Or, are you ashamed of your wrinkles? Ashton Applewhite, the author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, gave a TED Talk that makes many eye-opening points about ageism. Thank you to Resa of Graffiti Lux and Murals for bringing it to my attention recently. The entire talk is embedded at the end of this post so that you can watch it in full. At just over 11 minutes, it’s well worth the time, in my opinion.
Fears of Aging
Ashton Applewhite starts out by talking about how she used to fear getting older. She worried about drooling in the hallway of a senior’s home, for example. Then she began to research the issue about actually found that dementia rates are dropping, not increasing as many people believe it to be and that the real issue remains, which is anxiety over losing your memory.
If you worry about depression in older age, you’re not alone in this thought. But, did you know that it is actually a “U” curve of happiness that occurs? Applewhite explains that the majority of us are happiest at the beginning and ending of life.
On Ageism Being Socially Constructed
So, Ashton Applewhite says that she began to fear aging less as she looked into the realities… But ageism is reality too. It is a socially constructed entity. And, yes, applies to the young in addition to the old (both sides of the spectrum). Ageism is another of “ism” along with racism and several other prejudices.
Then Applewhite, in this TED Talk, put up a slide that says ageism is the “prejudice against our own future selves.”
Her talk touches briefly on anti-aging products. She says we are being critical of our changing bodies, trying to hold onto our youth, but “why on earth would you stop celebrating the ability to adapt and grow as we move through life?” Why does aging well mean looking like a younger version of yourself?
She calls for us to stop being embarrassed about getting older.
Obviously, this would involve changing the images we see in the media, including those in Hollywood, who are predominantly under 60 years old. Often those who are older than this, as Ashton Applewhite points out, are portrayed as a parody.
And as for the anti-aging skin care industry, it’s huge, and it depends on us wanting to keep seeking youthful beauty. If we reach that appearance, Applewhite suggests then that the huge industry would find itself out of work.
Educating and Being Open to Listening
But most people who are ageist don’t even know they are this way. It’s internalized by society from an early age. So why would someone challenge something they don’t even know they’re doing?
Well, thank goodness for those who educate us, such as Applewhite, and those who are open to listening to these speakers. While we have every right to fear getting old and outliving our retirement fund or loneliness, you can enjoy your older age more when you celebrate this changing version of yourself.
Let’s age with pride and confidence, rather than being ashamed the next time we go into a room and forget why we went there in the first place. To quote the inspirational Ashton Applewhite, “Aging is living.”
Here is the TED Talk in full: