According to studies conducted by Becca Levy, an assistant professor at Yale University, a positive perception of aging can extend life expectancy by more than seven-and-a-half years.
In fact, says Levy, who studies attitudes toward aging, one’s perception of aging affects longevity more than such other factors as gender, loneliness, health and socioeconomic status. Writing for boomercareer.com (free registration required), Denise Lang neatly condenses some of Levy’s findings:
“…not only does a person’s perceptions of aging form when they are young and are reinforced for most of their lives, but the formation of these perceptions are unconsciously internalized. In short, by the time you reach a point in your life when your thoughts turn to aging, your negative – or positive – perceptions of yourself and others have already become part of our attitudes.”
According to Professor Levy,
“People are not always aware they’re taking in these stereotypes. Part of it is transmitted by our culture and subcultures. Then there are also a range of other factors – like what we are exposed to on television, for example – how they perpetuate stereotypes, and the repetitive nature of these stereotypes.”
Every day, we are bombarded with off-handed, casual instances of ageism. They are so common we hardly notice most of the time and now, according to Levy, age prejudice, bias and bigotry are more than bad, and sometimes illegal, behavior - they can kill us earlier than we might have died otherwise.
Professor Levy encourages everyone to be vigilant about negative stereotypes of aging and I urge you to follow her advice:
“Question negative stereotypes wherever you find them,” she says. “We need to translate this knowledge into change.”
Send timegoesby.com instances of ageism that you find – in magazines, newspapers, books, in movies and on television, at work and anywhere else. Send links if you have them, or just tell us your stories. One way to fight bigotry is to expose it to the light.