En español | Today it is socially unacceptable to ignore, ridicule or stereotype someone based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. Isn’t it astonishing that there is no such hesitation to do any of these things based on someone’s age?
Especially at a time when so many people are living longer, more vibrant lives, how can ageism go unchallenged?
It cannot, so I am on a mission to “disrupt aging.” I want to confront outdated beliefs and stereotypes and spark new solutions so more people can choose how they want to live and age. We need to fight against the ageist attitudes and perceptions that permeate our society, shape our culture and sometimes contaminate our self-perceptions.
I won’t pretend that we aren’t affected by the aging process — we are. But it’s time to put aging in the proper perspective. Individuals and society most need changing in three areas: health, wealth and self
Health care needs an overhaul. We need an integrated approach that puts well-being at the center of our lives. As I see it, we need four major shifts:
- From a focus on physical and mental decline to physical and mental fitness
- From a primary focus on treatment to a focus on disease prevention, health promotion and well-being
- From being dependent patients to empowered users of health care
- From uncertain access to care to dependable access to care
As we strive to take control of our own health, we begin taking more responsibility for it. We look for better information to make healthier choices, and we search for tools that help us make changes that enhance our physical and mental well-being, not just treat our ailments. That’s disrupting aging.
Today we are living more active and engaged lives 20 to 30 years longer than our grandparents did. This takes more financial resources. It’s no surprise, then, that one of the things we fear most is outliving our money.
It’s shocking that over half of all households nearing retirement have absolutely no retirement savings, and Social Security provides most of the retirement income for about half of all households headed by people age 65 and older.
The time has come to change the conversation — or in many cases, start one — about preparing financially for our later years.
A new, holistic vision of financing our future expands from saving for retirement to enhancing our financial resilience throughout our lives. The goal is not just the absence of financial hardship or just squeaking by; it’s having the means to accomplish your life goals and purpose.
We must change the way we view ourselves as we get older — from aging as decline to aging as continuous growth.
Many older people feel cast aside. It’s important that they develop a sense of purpose and positive self-image. The goal is to gain confidence in navigating life transitions — and see ourselves as integral parts of society — rather than being isolated from society. As we go about designing our own lives, we need a new mind-set, new skills and, perhaps most of all, courage. Too many people resist the transitions that come with age and never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. I urge you to embrace your age and be fearless. Once you do, you will be liberated to bring all of your experience and wisdom to design the life you want to live.
I truly believe that age and experience can expand life’s possibilities for every member of our society. When we embrace aging as something to look forward to instead of something to fear, we can begin to discover our real possibilities for becoming the person we always wanted to be. We begin to build a society where all people are valued for who they are, not judged by how old they are.
I hope you’ll join me on this journey to disrupt aging.
Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.
Video: Disrupt Aging and Embrace Growing Older - AARP CEO and “Disrupt Aging” author Jo Ann Jenkins challenges people to change the conversation about aging and embrace what it means to grow older during her recent appearance on the Dr. Phil show.