The Phoenix

Seniors feel younger than ever, but COVID may reinforce ageist notions

- By John Grimaldi

It’s not how old you are; it’s how old you feel. Survey after survey show that the majority of senior citizens don’t feel like senior citizens. They feel younger and more active than they thought they’d be — whether you ask a 55-yearold or a 70-year-old.

“When we were kids, old folks looked and acted old; today’s kids are amazed at the energy and spunk of 70-year-olds and even 80-year-olds they encounter,” said Rebecca Weber, CEO of the Associatio­n of Mature American Citizens.

Meantime, the COVID pandemic may be giving youngsters new ageist notions, she warned.

The Website https:// says it’s all because we each have our own biological clock, and it rarely coincides with our biological age. American researcher­s have come to the conclusion that biological aging in recent years has been happening more slowly, which is why subsequent generation­s stay younger looking longer.

The plain fact is that most of America’s 70-year-olds and 80-year-olds don’t feel or look their age these days

One study, the results of which were reported last year, compared two groups of seniors. The first group consisted of individual­s who were born between 1910 and 1914. They were between the ages of 75 and 80 when they were interviewe­d and examined.

Participan­ts in the second group were born between 1938 and 1943. They, too, were evaluated in the same manner at the ages of 75 and 80. The results showed that those in the second group were stronger and living to

older ages with better physical functionin­g.

Another study polled 2,000 individual­s 65 years of age and older — 72% of them reported feeling younger than their chronologi­cal ages might suggest, and some 50% said they felt younger by 15 years.

Weber said these longevity statistics should be powerful weapons for combating the menace of ageism — the stereotypi­ng, prejudice and discrimina­tion against people on the basis of their age.

According to the Institute on Aging, “Just because we

age, doesn’t mean we should be treated differentl­y because of it.”

One would think that the fact seniors have been steadily becoming the majority in our population for quite some time might serve to discourage ageism; the statistics show that about 10,000 Americans celebrate their 65th birthdays each and every day. But it has done little to discourage the bias of aging.

The Reframing Aging Initiative describes ageism as an implicit bias — the unconsciou­s attitudes and beliefs that lead to snap judgments

about older people. The RAI says ageism is bad for our health and for our economy. It makes us sick and costs “our nation billions in avoidable health care costs. Ageism (also) stifles the economy by limiting the participat­ion of older workers, despite their years of experience.”

So how do these unconsciou­s attitudes form. Some say it is due to the stereotypi­ng by younger generation­s as a means of rebelling against the authority of their elders. That may be true and, if so, perhaps the pandemic has exacerbate­d the notion, according to Weber.

She cites an American Psychologi­cal Associatio­n report that COVID may reinforce ageist beliefs. The APA report cites Shevaun Neupert, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at North Carolina State University, who says that messages “such as ‘stay home and protect your grandmothe­r’ could both shape how younger people think about older adults now and how they themselves will think about being older as they age. This is a transforma­tional time to imagine how generation­s of people will experience aging now and in the future.”

“It is always important to remember It’s not how old you are; it’s how old you feel,” Weber said.

The 2.4 million member Associatio­n of Mature American Citizens, www., is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organizati­on that takes its marching orders from its members. AMAC Action is a nonprofit, non-partisan organizati­on representi­ng the membership in our nation’s capital and in local congressio­nal districts throughout the country.

 ?? DEPOSITPHO­TOS ?? Most of America’s 70-year-olds and 80-year-olds don’t feel or look their age these days.
DEPOSITPHO­TOS Most of America’s 70-year-olds and 80-year-olds don’t feel or look their age these days.

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