Senior citizens don’t be categorized – define yourself instead!

Lynn Dorman, Ph.D. // Aging


August 26  

Would you like to be categorized – or would you rather be defined?
Before you answer – read on a bit – there is a subtle difference between the 2 ideas. 
You define yourself.  Others categorize you. R. Peterson
Think about this difference.  
If you allow yourself to be categorized. you may find yourself described as being:
  • old
  • inactive
  • poor
  • unhealthy
  • decrepit
  • bent over
  • wheelchair bound
  • ready to die

[to cite a few stereotypes]

But – if you define yourself – there is no limit to the list of descriptors you can use!

Senior citizenship is being:

  • a cougar
  • a master skier [squash player, golfer, runner, etc.]
  • wealthy
  • learned
  • a font of wisdom
  • a treasure trove of knowledge
[add your own descriptions]
Reflect on the difference between the two lists. 
The first is a list of stereotypes or myths that too many people have about those over 65 – and especially about those over 70. 
Can you imagine how those over 90 are described?  Scary – isn't it ?
The second is a list of what older persons can do and are now doing. And these are behaviors, and knowledge, which many cultures cherish and nourish. It’s just that our stereotypical blinders keep us from seeing this.
“Wise elders,” who are respected, and from whom advice is sought, sounds like a far better description than “nosy old coot.” Especially when those so described may have the same wisdom to impart.
If you let others categorize you – you lose some of your own “self-ness.” You become a statistic or a stereotype. Worse – you begin to believe that this is the way older persons are supposed to be and act.
You follow what in psychology is known as the self-fulfilling prophecy; you actually become what others think of you or how they have categorized you.
How is this possible? Because there are very few large populations of active healthy seniors to study and the researchers are mostly “younger” – so they are not surrounded in the workplace by healthy 70 year olds.
When you define yourself – you maintain a large degree of individuality -and independence – which are vital to healthy aging. 
So snub your nose at the categories and category makers and define your own way through the aging process!
Don’t worry about what others think of you – especially if they say things like: “aren’t you too old to still be skiing?” or playing softball or even working? 

Think up a cute response that lets those “others” know you will keep doing what it is you like to do –

NOT what the category makers think you should be doing.

And you? Category or definition?

Please comment below – thank you

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About the Author

Native of NYC who moved a lot, got several degrees, and has been a lifelong writer and reader... I am interested in many things - and I write [and teach] about them - especially the human lifespan and healthy aging

Lynn Dorman, Ph.D.