Perils of the Illusion of StabilityWritten by Peter Roden, Aging In Place
Perils of the Illusion of Stability
May you stay forever young.
One of the major successes of the 20th Century was the luxury of aging. In fact, longevity is such a recent phenomenon that it’s estimated that of all the human beings who have ever lived to be 65 years of age or older, half are currently alive today (Gray Dawn)! Decreased infant mortality, declining morbidity from infectious diseases (due to antibiotics) and improved sanitation/nutrition, have led to each generation growing older than the one before; but not all see this as a positive development.
The Problem of Age
The late author, Betty Friedan in her seminal work, Fountain of Age, reported on “the problem of age.” Friedan noted that much of our views concerning aging centered around images of mentally incompetent, child-like, lonely, dependent, powerless, sexless, unattractive, older persons…Is it any wonder the fear of aging (gerontophobia) is rampant in our culture.
Google “Successful Aging” and you get about 509,000 results; everything from The Center for Successful Aging—to—tips—to—theories. There’s no dearth of information on the topic; some legitimate, some snake oil. Problems arise when we encounter definitions like this:
Successful Aging means little or no loss in function as compared to youth.
Now this is at the other extreme end of the problem of Age…the danger lies in the lack of acknowledgement related to change. Holding on tenaciously to youth/middle aged values of competition and ambition into old age can lead to psychiatric break down in the future. A more mentally healthy approach is to focus on evolving aspects of the aging-self; instead of exclusively on the losses. Defining age as merely the absence of youth blinds us to the human potential of what’s been defined as “the 3rd age.”
Betty Friedan noted:
“An accurate, realistic, active identification with one’s own aging – as opposed both to resignation to the stereotype of being ‘old’ and denial of age changes,” according to Freidan, “seems an important key to vital aging, and even longevity.” Betty nailed it, a sweet spot—she once said that we have to live our own age…
When (and if) you ask yourself: “What’s my future going to look like?” And in your mind’s eye it looks like it does now, you’re at risk for Hyper-habituation, stagnation, and development may be sacrificed at the altar of the illusion of stability.
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