Everyone goes through the ageing process of life and most of us are subjected to social bullying called the Ageism. I am motivated to write on this topic in the wake of ever increase in the stats for mental disability and also the fact that someone close to me has been a victim of ignorant callousness.
One of my ex-colleagues went through depression after she retired at the age of 60. Even a strong character like her was pushed down by bigot mentality and eventually she felt almost guilty about her age which developed into an inferiority complex. Remarks like, ‘You’ll be out of place there’, ‘ your active days are over now’, ‘ You should act your age,’ ‘ that style might look better on a younger person, etc. ravaged her life and it manifested in the form of recluse, withdrawal, eating disorder, to name a few symptoms. She is an educated and a very intelligent person, who pulled herself through mental illness with self- motivation and is currently dedicated to volunteering to help elderly in the nursing homes. I am sure that there are tens of thousands of people who are or have gone through such victimisation.
Suddenly you start noticing that references are made to your age in almost all spheres of conversation and interactions by those who are younger than you, the same age-group and even the ones who are older. Your ears are eroded with the sound of phrases like, ‘At your age’, ‘as you grow older’, ‘your generation’, ‘ doesn’t go with your age’, and many more such inequitable phrases. In certain orthodox countries like India, Nigeria, Malaysia and Nepal it is a tradition to call anyone older as Aunty or Uncle without any real relationship. This is fine so far respect is concerned, but when overdone becomes offending. My sister in India had a baby when she was in her late twenties and many people couldn’t believe that she was a mother of a child as she looked so young. But on the other side, those who had seen her with the baby and could be 4-5 years younger than herself started addressing her as ‘Aunty’!🙄 She was shocked and this gave her some complex initially. My mum explained to her that it wasn’t personal since marriage was considered to be an uplift in social status so people mean to show respect. I never understood that logic and found that especially women are the recipients of such attention, in proportion. There are more indecorous ways where society almost makes you feel guilty about growing older. Many people are mentally affected by such a passive aggressive excluding attitude. No one deserves to be treated as discarded, outdated or obsolete while the heart is still beating.
Once you are labelled ‘middle age’ even God can’t influence the primitive mindset of the world – your cosmos is expected to be painted sober in pastel colours, wardrobe must accommodate for hanging longer dresses, choice of music should tone down and learn to sway to slow beat only and…and…please don’t even mention or comment on SEX!!
I’ll give you an example, I am a qualified dancer with extensive stage and television experience. I volunteered to perform for a charity event and I was patronised by one of the organisers who said to me, very charmingly, ‘Though others are all young dancers but I am sure you can still pull it at your age’!!! I had just turned 40 at that time and according to my mirror, mind and social links looked a very young 40 every inch of my personality. So, my response was, ‘ I hope you are as lucky as I am when you reach my age in a couple of years.’ He was dumbfounded and didn’t speak to me rest of the evening. The shoe was on the other foot- He was 25 and I was being sarcastic. 😜.
Even the doctors start to use age as an excuse for the symptoms they can’t diagnose. Well, I’ve experienced this since I turned 35 years old and it’s getting younger and younger for newer and newer health strains.
I not only protest but am appalled by such pre-conceived notions. How dare this society? These People remind me of that pigeon who closes its eyes and pretends that the cat doesn’t exist but ageing is a reality, like the cat, and will dawn on every single being on this earth. I think we human beings need diverse stimuli for keeping our inner intolerance kindled. No wonder there is so much negativity around in the world- this is one virus we humans have developed in the lab of our mind and is highly infectious. We have to find an antidot to end such mindless discrimination. Only defiance would kick ass this chucklesome social deformity.
Challenge the facetious lip-service, like, ‘ you look so young for your age‘. No thank you very much, I can look my age and be as young at heart as I feel. Another teasing insincerity lie in words like, ‘ 40 is the new 30…50 is the new 40…60 is the new…..’; I would have hailed such mental evolution if it was sincere.
I am not insisting that old people should not be called old, but not as a derogatory judgement in a condescending way by mentally yoking together ‘old’ and ‘unable’ ( I am not talking about disability here.) Let people age as they would like to individually- dye hair any colour you fancy or leave the natural glory of grey shine through , dress up as a peacock if you would like to and poke in the eye phrases like ‘ mutton dressed as lamb’, your bedroom is your domain and don’t let a kaput mentality peep through your privacy, be a party diva and swirl through the lame party poopers. In short, live your life and to the fullest by your choice and not as per the expectations of others. Be the trend setter and others will follow. Don’t let anyone push you in to a cubbyhole and for God’s sake don’t stop living before you die.
Everything matures to its prime with time. There wouldn’t have been any history recorded for mankind, had not the chronicles been collated by the experienced generations of the time and experience itself develops with age. Captain Tom Moore raised £32 million at the age of 99 for Covid-19, At 85, Theodor Mommsen receive a Nobel Prize in Literature, Fauja Singh ran a marathon at 100, and many more such names and achievements that my article can’t possible absorb. My motto here is not that every mature person need to make records to prove their worth, but to highlight the fact that there are levels of abilities in all people, regardless of age – not every young person is a picture of youth, similarly the older people can be average normal human beings too.
I know I am prepared with my boxing gloves to knock the hell out of this sickness in society. Please join me, whatever your age, by leaving a comment.
5 thoughts on “Spills from life: How ageism can affect mental health”
Beautiful expression. Helpful too. Thank you
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Thank you very much and am glad that you found the article helpful. Really appreciate. 🙏🙏
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“Once you are labelled ‘middle age’ even God can’t influence the primitive mindset of the world”
The older people I know must have missed these message. 😀 They are dating, and doing all the things bigger and better than before.
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Thank you for this interesting post, Jasleen. I think that every age has its advantages and positive points. Food for thought, for sure ….
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Thank you for your kind words. Appreciate it. Stay safe, stay connected. 🙏🙏
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