What a tiny part of the boundless abyss of time has been allotted to each of us – and this is soon vanished into eternity. The translated words of Marcus Aurelius, written two millennia ago, help remind us how minuscule our bit of this ‘boundless abyss of time’ is.
All of us, no matter our chronological age, are sharing the same small patch of time – spec of the abyss, as to render the notion of generational division somewhat redundant. The pejorative label old, when used to voice ageism, is laughable, it only corrodes our collective moment of potential.
“Older people are regularly exposed to ageism such as negative assumptions about their worth, capacity or level of understanding, as well as jokes about older age,” said Professor Julie Henry from the University of Queensland School of Psychology, following the release of a new study she led on self-directed ageism.
Professor Henry says we live in a world that “devalues ageing” which makes it “more difficult for older people to challenge internalised ageist beliefs, known as self-directed ageism”.
Symptoms of self-directed ageism include people believing ‘I’m too old to learn this new technology’ or ‘I’m too old to make new friends’. This internal prison, Professor Henry explains, has been shown to shorten lifespan and lead to a worsening of physical and mental health.
“It can also be harmful when older adults allow their negative beliefs about ageing to undermine their confidence to take on new or challenging experiences and opportunities,” adds Professor Henry. “Interventions, such as creating more opportunities for positive social interactions between younger and older people, are needed to prevent negative views of ageing from developing in the first place.”
Reducing the ‘cues to ageism in our wider social environment’ is also important.
“If fewer ageist cues attract older people’s attention, the risk of self-directed ageism should be reduced,” she added.