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Tuesday December 7th, 2021 7:21AM

Aging process includes stereotypes, wellness

By Alyson Shields Reporter

Aging is a process, but the standards and stereotypes for men and women aren't the same. 

Wellness Coordinator Lisa Howard with Legacy Link in Oakwood said there is a double standard.

"There's a disconnect really on how society sees men and women aging," Howard said. "Men are quote, unquote allowed to age with their appearance as is typically, with no questions asked, where women on the other hand are encouraged or maybe even expected to keep up their appearance. The various lotions, creams, you know, hair colorings and what have you. Men continue to be front and center as they age while women tend to fade into the background basically."

This comes following critical comments on actress Sarah Jessica Parker's grey hair, and Parker snapping back at critics. The actress was recently having lunch with Andy Cohen, who also has grey hair, and commented that a man would never be subjected to the comments she was.

Howard said, realistically, we are aging as soon as we are born, and the terminology surrounding age and aging can be vague.

"When you talk about aging, we have to figure out what are we talking about and what is considered older, like for instance, at age 40 people are considered at risk for age discrimination already from employers," said Howard. "Age 50, we're eligible for the AARP membership, we become eligible for participating in activities at senior centers at 60, at 65, we can receive Medicare benefits, and then 67 we can become eligible to receive full Social Security benefits. So there's, there's always the question of, what does it mean you know, when are we considered older?"

While previously the goal was "successful" aging, Howard said a switch to "optimal" or "healthy" aging was now preferred. 

"We've moved from the idea of successful aging, which is considered the absence of disease and disability or high cognitive and physical functioning and active engagement with life," Howard said.  "And we've moved from that definition to more of the idea of healthy aging or optimal aging, which is actually the ability to function across many domains: physical, functional, cognitive, emotional, social and spiritual, to that person satisfaction in spite of one's medical conditions. So when you think about successful aging, the term in itself means that we can be unsuccessful or fail at it, which that doesn't seem right."

Aging does require an element of wellness, Howard said, much like owning a car.

"New cars, they just run and we just sit back and enjoy the ride," said Howard. "But an older car, we need to have more maintenance and perhaps some repairs to keep it running well. And that means we have to work at it to keep things running well and that holds true for our body and our health in general as we get older. So regarding wellness, it's an active process. It's not just something being done to us, but something that we're doing and engaging in that optimizes our health."

Legacy Link offers a variety of wellness program, such as fall prevention, and chronic illness management, and not just limited to fitness, such as Aging Mastery, financial wellness, and life planning. Find out more about their wellness courses here.

Howard also encouraged regular visits to the doctor, including any specialists, and dentist, as well as eating right and exercising to maintain a healthy balance.

"Back to that car analogy - if we wait until it's worn out under the hood and rusty on the outside to start working on it, it's  more costly and much more work than if we kept up the maintenance along the way," said Howard. "So the same goes for our health as we get older. It's the things you do to take care along the way that will likely help you age with greater satisfaction and overall well being. But I do want to add the caveat that it is never too late to get started with the process."

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Aging process includes stereotypes, wellness
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