By: Dr. Beth Templin
I often describe myself as an Aging Advocate. Sometimes I don’t think people, especially some of my friends and family, truly understand what that means or why I’m so passionate about it. Let’s break it down word by word to help create a better understanding of what it means to be an aging advocate.
Advocate noun a person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy; verb publicly recommend or support. Synonyms: champion, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent.
Aging noun the process of growing old; adjective growing old; elderly
Basically, I publicly support issues concerning the process of growing older. My interests in particular are to dispel the common myths of aging, raise awareness about normal changes related to aging and what’s not normal, and to educate people on how they can make small changes in their daily routines and lifestyle to stay healthy and active as they age.
The end goal of being an advocate for any group is to drive change. To be effective, you must be committed to creating greater public awareness, be willing to speak out publicly about the issues you want to see improved and be willing to continue to learn more about the topic or area you are supporting.
This is one of the main reasons I created Dr. Beth Online. To create a platform to publicly shout out my message and to help drive change, allowing people to live their lives to the fullest and avoid the common pitfalls associated with “old age”. Why? Because so many of the frequent declines people experience with age are preventable.
What I find most interesting is that the aging process happens to all of us. We all age. We all get “old”. So, it seems logical to me that we would all be aging advocates, but that is far from the truth.
So many people are not aware of issues facing the aging population. Even if they think something is a little off or unfair, they do not take action to call out the discrepancies. They do not use their voice to foster change and make things better.
Why? Maybe it’s because even if a discrepancy is noticed, you don’t think you can do anything to make a positive impact. That it’s too hard to get people to listen to you. That it’s too challenging to create change. That it’s too late to make things better for yourself and others. I would challenge you to think differently about it, what have you got to lose?
Yes, as a healthcare provider I have the added benefit of already having a more thorough understanding of what happens to the body with age. The great news is that you do not need to be a healthcare professional or have any formal training in order to be an aging advocate. All you need is some awareness on the issues facing the aging community so that you can be a voice of change.
In my opinion the single biggest challenges facing aging adults today is ageism.
Ageism noun prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age.
This term was created by Robert Butler, a gerontologist, in 1969 to describe discrimination against elderly people. Ageism is defined as “a process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people because they are old”.
Like other forms of discrimination, ageism incorrectly assumes that everyone of a certain age has a similar set of characteristics. The things that makes ageism so damaging to older adults is that it places many negative stereotypes on the group. Things like being weak and feeble minded, loss of independence, becoming a burden on others create many negative beliefs about the aging process. This leads to so many other problems, both in society and in healthcare.
The first step is identifying the problems facing aging adults. As mentioned earlier, I don't think enough people are aware of the challenges people face as they age. Hopefully, I can help raise that awareness here. Once we have awareness of what the problem is, we can start to educate ourselves more and then use our voice to help others also raise their awareness of the issues.
Look for next post where I will discuss ageism in society and some of the more common stereotypes of aging more in depth.
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ understand the changes of aging and how to live a healthy active lifestyle, so they don’t start to miss out on the good things in life.