We know that for young people, a healthy self-esteem can serve as a buffer against the onslaught of life’s challenges. While much of the research on self-esteem has been focused on youth, this knowledge can be applied to the general population as well. Given the importance of a healthy self-esteem to a person’s well-being, why would we make disparaging comments about older people? Why tolerate, or even participate, in negative stereotyping and discrimination about aging when we are looking at our future selves?

Research has shown that older adults’ attitudes about aging have an impact on quality of life, health and even longevity. According to researchers at Trinity College (Dublin), negative attitudes toward aging have an effect on both cognitive and physical health as people age.

The study found that older adults who had negative attitudes about aging exhibited worse cognitive abilities and slower walking speeds compared to those with positive attitudes over a two year period. The result was the same even after factors like changes in health, life circumstances, mental health and medication use were taken into account.

“The way we think about, talk about and write about aging may have direct effects on health,” said study author Dierdre Robertson, adding that, “as everybody will grow older, looking negatively at aging throughout life will bring detrimental and measurable effects on an individual’s cognitive, mental and physical health”.
And the research is not just unique to Ireland. At Yale University, researchers discovered that negative stereotypes of aging became negative self-stereotypes later in life, impacting quality of life, health and lifespan. A study published in the Journal of Gerontology noted that people with positive self- perceptions lived on average seven years longer than those with negative attitudes.

It’s time to talk about our self-esteem around growing older and our attitude. In partnership with the Vital Aging Network, Community Thread is hosting a free workshop called “Aging with Gusto”. The workshop will help attendees understand the influences of our culture, including widespread biases and misconceptions about people as they age.
Participants will learn how to integrate a new, more positive narrative about aging into their lives. As one participant shared “Such rich conversation. I don’t need to be passive, I have the ability to take action. A total turning point for me.”
Aging with Gusto will be facilitated by Sally Brown and Joann Ellis from the Vital Aging Network. This organization enables people 50+ to challenge stereotypes about older adults, make meaningful contributions in their communities and remain active and engaged.

Join us for an engaging discussion to examine our views on aging and listen to the views of others. The workshop will be on Friday, February 9 from 10 am – 2:30 pm at Community Thread, 2300 Orleans St. West in Stillwater. There is no cost to attend. A complimentary lunch will be provided by Presbyterian Homes & Services – Croixdale. Register by February 1 by calling 651-439-7434.

By: Sally Anderson