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Why Don't We Talk About Age?

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It’s a question that some people dread: how old are you? There are many reasons people don’t want to talk about their age, but dodging, avoiding, and sometimes outright lying about your age could be doing more harm than good for your health, both mental and physical. Whether you’re comfortable with your age or thinking about it makes you squirm, there are some real, measurable benefits of coming to terms with your number of years.

Perceptions of Aging and Healthcare

One study by the University of Michigan set out to determine whether or not the likelihood of seeking preventative healthcare in aging adults was linked to their satisfaction with aging. Older adults are less likely than young- and middle-aged adults to use preventative healthcare services, with less than 30% of people over 50 meeting benchmarks for core preventative services. Efforts to address this gap have focused largely on making healthcare more accessible, both in terms of cost and physical access, but they have only been able to do so much. What is holding seniors back?

The study, testing if personal beliefs were a bigger deciding factor than accessibility when it comes to senior healthcare, found that seniors who were more comfortable with their age were far more likely to obtain screenings for chronic diseases and get more regular preventative care than those who weren’t. That means, when it comes to health issues and conditions such as high cholesterol, which is a major factor in heart disease, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, people who were more comfortable with aging were better prepared.

Why the Taboo?

So why is age such a touchy subject? There are many reasons why someone may be uncomfortable talking or thinking about their age, and they are by no means invalid or unimportant. Here are some of the most common:

  • End of Life.

    • Mortality is a fact of life, but one that no one likes to be reminded of. While lifespans are growing longer thanks to advancements in medical interventions and technology, aging and retirement living still signals that we’re getting to the final stages of life. Fear of death, or fear of leaving behind loved ones and friends, is completely rational, but it can cause dissatisfaction with aging.
  • Changes in Ability.

    • As the human body ages, many changes occur - you may notice it’s harder to hear the person talking to you, or that reading strains your eyes. You may experience achy joints or loss of focus. While exercise, diet, and healthcare can all play a part in slowing signs of aging, these small, progressive changes can be frustrating and scary.
  • Changes in Appearance.

    • Some may consider worrying about appearance changes to be vain or somehow attached to ego, but how you see yourself plays a large part in your mental health. Wrinkles and white hair change how you look, and it’s not vain to miss how you looked when you were younger. Just don’t let your appearance determine your self-worth!
  • Ageism.

    • Ageism is, sadly, a common prejudice in the United States. Aging and elderly adults are often seen as less capable than younger and middle-aged adults. Whether in professional settings or on the road, younger people tend to doubt seniors’ ability to perform complicated tasks, and no one wants to be seen as less capable than they are.

Age may be just a number, but it’s also just part of living. Being more comfortable with your age can actually help you enjoy life more, but there’s no easy or quick solution. Coming to terms with how old you are requires introspection, discovery, and support from loved ones, so don’t worry if you still hesitate before stating your age or putting your birth date on a form. You’re on your way to a healthier, happier you.

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