February 22, 2012 Leave a comment
February 20, 2009 Leave a comment
Well done to Standard Life for their current press campaign featuring – Hallelujah! – older people who don’t look truly elderly, simple or downtrodden. Badged with the slogan “people don’t grow older like they used to” the campaign uses black and white photos of both celebs (e.g. Mariella Frostrup, Marco Pierre White) and ordinary people (or perhaps I just don’t recognize them!) to reinforce what “older” looks like these days. And frankly, judging by these pictures, it ain’t bad.
Let’s have more of this positive approach from marketers – and soon.
January 31, 2008 Leave a comment
Be honest now. How many times in the last week have you justified a momentary lapse of concentration or memory loss by saying ‘ I’m having a senior moment’, or ‘It’s my age’? How often did you preface any sentence with the words, ‘At my/our time of life…’? or even worse, ‘In my day…’? How frequently did you use the killer phrase ‘I remember when…’? or justify some failing by saying ‘It was different when I was young’?
If your answer was ‘quite often’ then you’re not alone. If you listen to most over 50s you’ll hear them using these and many similar phrases regularly, often in a very self-deprecating way. Okay, usually the intention is to make light of our failings and idiosyncrasies which can be very entertaining and amusing, but underneath there is a more sinister force at work. Through speaking and presenting ourselves to the world in this way we are reinforcing those ageist stereotypes that we otherwise fight so hard against. By talking ‘old’ we’re making ourselves ‘old’.
It’s as if we are using our mode of speech as a defence mechanism. By saying, in effect, ‘I recognise that I am ageing and I am not as capable as I once was,’ we avoid the danger of being laughed at, pitied or ridiculed. As a common response to a threatening situation this would appear reasonable if it wasn’t for the fact that if we believe that we are essentially vibrant, capable, energetic and powerful people then there’s nothing that we need to justify in this way.
Creating a self-fulfilling prophecy
What seems to happen is that once we pass middle age we become the victims of ageist doctrine. Almost unconsciously we start to believe that because we are a certain age we are less capable than we once were and less able than younger people. By so doing we are in danger of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Of course there are miserable old curmudgeons who use their age as a weapon, harking back to ‘better’ times and criticising everything and everyone that exists today. But these are the exception and often these people were as fundamentally miserable and disaffected when they were young – now they’ve just had more practice at being obnoxious!
For the majority, reality is a great deal different. In order to understand the situation better, perhaps we need to look at some of the myths ..and some of the facts.
Myth number 1: over 50s forget things more – we suffer from ‘senior moments’.
Fact: Although normal healthy older people can suffer more lapses in short-term memory, there is no evidence that they suffer any greater memory loss than younger people or their younger selves. What tends to happen is that delays in retrieval of information can lengthen – rather like your computer slowing down when it has too much information stored. So all that you need to recognise is that because you know and have experienced so much, retrieving that information can sometimes take longer. So what!
Myth number 2: older people can’t learn as fast or perform as well as younger people.
Fact: Research shows that this is not borne out by the evidence. Older people may learn differently than younger people and may sometimes have to ‘un-learn’ something before they can learn a new technique, but once this is taken into account there is no particular difference. In fact, older people can sometimes learn quicker – and perform better – because of their experience in problem solving built up over many years.
Myth number 3: Our best years are behind us – once you’re over 50 it’s downhill all the way.
Fact: This is an attitude of mind and one which may reinforce the above misconceptions and many more like them. In fact, for the majority of people the 50plus years are the best of their lives with more time, fewer responsibilities, possibly increased financial freedom, and greater self-assurance. Of course, there may be worries or issues, there are at any time of life, but now we have the experience, skills and resilience to deal with them.
Of course, these are just a few of the thousands of myths which surround ‘growing old’. The most important thing is to separate fact from fiction and not to simply accept ageist stereotypes at face value.
Making a good impression
Language provides/creates an impression upon which others judge us. For example, if you listen to a conversation without being able to see who’s speaking, you can often tell how old people are by the specific words they use, and the way they frame their opinions and attitudes. But sometimes people who you assumed were really elderly turn out to not to be. Might one of them be you?
Perhaps you think it doesn’t matter in your daily life, talking with your friends and family, but it certainly does in situations when you want to make a good first impression, and also in the workplace where you need to hold your own against younger colleagues. The good news is you don’t have to change much, just remember a few simple tips:
· Banish the word ‘ageing’ from your mind in relation to yourself – if you think ‘old’, you can guarantee you’ll start to sound that way too.
· Ensure your vocabulary is up-to-date. Unfortunately we can’t do much about the name we were given which often pigeon-holes us as being born in a particular era, but if you’re fond of using words like ‘wireless’, ‘chum’, ‘groovy’, you need to stop (there’s thousands more but you may not recognise how anachronistic they sound, so ask your friends and family if you’re not sure). Make sure also that you understand new acronyms (e.g.wifi, and BOMAD) and terminology (e.g. iPod, and McJob) which demonstrates that you are in the mainstream and up to date.
· Watch your intonation and breathing. Regardless of what they’re actually saying, some people just sound old because their voices lack enthusiasm or their posture and breathing is poor, creating a generally downbeat effect. Don’t let yourself physically slow down in this way. If in doubt, listen to a recording of yourself and be critical. Practice injecting more energy into your speech.
· Finally, be careful about extraneous noise such as sighs, grunts, groans or other elderly and unappealing sounds. Really old people tend to use them as both commentary and punctuation to their lives and also tend to irritate others hugely by doing so. For anyone except the truly elderly, they’re completely inappropriate. If you’re guilty of this, stop it at once!
Dianne Bown-Wilson is a writer, coach and consultant and one of the founders of in my prime – an organisation offering information, advice and support for mature people rethinking their lives, and employers who want to make the most of their mature workforce. Her book Primetastic! – 50 tips for life when you’re over 50 can be obtained through the in my prime website at www.inmyprime.co.uk.
Tel: 01865 841541