May is Older American’s Month. The theme this year comes complete with a hashtag- Age out Loud. The concept is an uplifting one.
“More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. They expect to continue to live their lives to the fullest, and they’re insisting on changes that make that possible.”
This ‘celebration’ is not something you will see advertised on TV as there is nothing commercial to sell for it. I guess we should be glad to have a whole month not just a day, but what does it really mean? Does it indicate that people are paying more positive attention to the longitudinal course of aging, or is it just wishful thinking.
Certain demographic trends are now being taken as truths; people are living longer. The fastest growing segment of the population is the age bracket of over 85. Now to me that says, yes there are many things going right in self care and health care, but more attention is warranted for the needs of that segment of the population. Due to several contributing factors the rates of dementia are falling by almost 24%. Yet the actual total number of people who will have dementia will be larger because that slice of the population age brackets it is bigger than it has ever been.
On the financial side, security is eroding. Fewer people are able to reach retirement age with any substantial amount of a pension or 401 K savings. Even those more at the head of the pack with more sizable pensions are being blamed for ruining the economy because they have become ‘insular ‘ in their spending. Being cautious or gloomy about making your savings last is a matter of self preservation. Plus I think the wisdom of aging helps you refrain from buying a new TV and gadgets every two years for the fun of it.
It is a mixed bag as they used to say. For every positive headline, blog piece or article I read, there seems to another with a negative attitude toward aging to balance it out. Even with all the whizz bang creation of old age tech that is supposed to make us less dependent on others, there is a caveat now. It is not selling well or fast enough. They are looking for the ‘big break thru item’ So many industries will be spending their research and marketing energy fawning over the millennial consumer. Lots of shiny objects for the young folk because they think we are too old to be dazzled by them. Can it be that the boomers are finally no longer the darlings of market research?
Meanwhile back at popular culture level, the Saturday Night Live skit last weekend that mocked the dementia tendencies of older owners of a silver edition of the AI box, was the pits. I am afraid this is more of what we are in for. Satire always has two sides. I hope we as older Americans will not be the object of scorn and ridicule or worse just ignored.
Maybe in honor of Older American’s Month we need to realize that yes we need to push for our own independence and against stereotyping and discrimination. So maybe the Age Out Loud hashtag does make sense. At least it is a declarative sentence! The flip side of that coin is to go quietly into that dark night or whatever and I do not think that is the plan.