“What we previously thought of as an older person is changing,” according to Stephen A. Kagan, M.D., F.A.C.P., Regional Medical and Research Specialist in Vaccines and Infectious Diseases at Pfizer. Advances in healthcare have made it possible for people to stay active and productive well into their 70s and beyond. According to Dr. Kagan, who is also the co-lead for the Pfizer Center of Excellence on Active and Healthy Ageing, many Baby Boomers are working longer, going back to school for additional training, obtaining new college degrees, changing professions, acting as caregivers and serving their communities.
Despite all of that, ageism—the prejudice against people based on age and disability—still exists. Some men and women experience ageism when they feel ignored, underestimated or disrespected because of their age. We also practice ageism on ourselves when we think we have no value simply because we’ve reached a certain age. So how can you fight ageism? Here are three steps from Dr. Kagan.
Know your rights. Especially when it comes to your rights in the work place. Now that people are working well into their 70s, it’s important to act as your own personal advocate. Read your state’s age discrimination policies if you’re currently looking for a job. And if you already have one, your company’s human resources department can help you navigate any issues that may arise.
Change your attitude. How you feel about getting older can greatly affect the way people perceive you and your age. Instead of throwing in the towel and saying “my time is done,” Dr. Kagan recommends asking “what’s next?” Celebrate your age and the wisdom it has provided. Then keep learning new things, keep challenging your mind, and stay as active as possible so you’re ready to face the challenges ahead.
Share your stories and experiences. Though it isn’t always easy, speaking openly about the aging process can help shape and change the conversation about what it means to get old. Look to support groups, friends and family, online forums and social media to help you connect with others who are going through the same things you are.