No, I’m not suggesting you stick your tongue out at people or pull out that micro-miniskirt that you rocked in high school. But there is research suggesting that there are all sorts of cues in our environment about what aging should be like, and we subconsciously absorb them and act them out.
In a study, Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer took a group of elderly men to an isolated hotel where all external cues were set to twenty years earlier.They were also told not to reminisce about the past, but to actually act as if they were living in that previous decade. The results were interesting: physical ailments declined; mental acuity sharpened. Langer’s book on the subject is called Counterclockwise.
After reading a summary of Langer’s study, I became more aware of the messages we’re often given about aging. As I stood in the grocery line, I saw a magazine headline: “Forty and Fabulous” and realized that the subtext was that, in most cases, forty must not be fabulous. When any person over the age of sixty stops a robber or runs a race, it’s a news story as if it is some sort of freakish oddity. In a youth-obsessed culture, age is something to be feared, and we take in the messages that there is something wrong with us if we’re older than Justin Bieber.
As much as we can, let’s embrace life with fullness and stop waiting and fearing that first wrinkle or the first twinge of arthritis or when some young student asks how you felt when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor 🙂