There has been growing pressure to age gracefully while minimizing the biological changes in the physical appearance and activity. Research shows that the body-image among the ageing population is significantly associated with their health, wellbeing and life satisfaction.
A lot of money is invested in anti-aging beauty products and gyms to increase physical activity. The acceptance of the changes taking place in the body with age, higher life satisfaction, healthy diet, and appropriate physical activity are essential for aging gracefully. There are widespread misconceptions and unacceptability of individuals who age gracefully in our society. For masses, there are certain body images that are associated with ‘married woman’, ‘aunty’ and ‘uncle’. Although very few individuals are able to age gracefully, people misperceive such individuals as they don’t look who they actually are.
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Ageing is fundamentally inevitable
Learning to own it can make one’s life better. Pretending to be young and adopting visible characteristics of another age group to which you no longer belong, proves lower self-worth in a person. Here it is important to define youth. According to United Nations, the age between 15 to 24 is classified as youth. Internationally, a lot of emphasis is given to the health and care of the elderly. A research study demonstrated that the closer the individuals get to old age with passing years, the more they think old age will start later. Ironically, as we age, we forget that it is us going through different stages of life. All age groups must be owned like youth.
Why a certain age group is loved more than all others? Why isn’t the individual passing through the stages of lifespan important than anything else! Even though no one can deny the fact that youth is the most charming phase of human life. But have we ever questioned why this pattern prevails! Wisdom lies in changing the society for better life satisfaction among aging segment of the population. We all are aging. All age groups should be owned because it is the human being who is more important.
Generally speaking, irrational fear of aging is common among men and women alike in Pakistan which is demonstrated in the misinformation about age. Language demonstrates the social biases against old age. It is common for our women to hide their age and usually lie about their age. It is a bad idea to misinform your healthcare provider as it can affect disease management and outcomes. One reason can be the lack of knowledge about the birth date. But primarily, younger age is mentioned to not to be called with statuses such as aunty and ‘amma g’. It is also rude to associate people who are complete strangers, with titles such as uncle or aunty. Why do we need to address a person like this in public spheres? Seeing it the other way round.
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Why does it feel so bad to be called as aunty? Nobody wants to be called old
Ageing seems to neinharmonious to the concept of beauty as per the prevailing social patterns. If you are not beautiful, you are not good enough to be loved and praised by others. Subsequently, a person who has all the qualities of youth, receives compliments for being youthful. People idealize celebrities for their beauty and youth.
We see that people from all over the world strive to prolong their youth. A lot of money is spent on the body image, facial corrections and visible personality characteristics just to get acceptance from others. Hence, we determine our self-worth through the perceptions of others about us. Worrying less about what people will think, surrounding yourself with positive people and staying happy would help in this regard.
The extreme of fearing your aging leads to the development of phobia known as gerascophobia which involves worrying too much and having panic attacks while putting unnecessary efforts to look young, associating to people of young age groups.It should be understood that getting cosmetic surgeries will not prevent biological aging. One needs to have confidence in their personality and love they really are. It is important because not everyone can afford cosmetic surgeries and maintain an expensive lifestyle.
Once you are alive, all age groups are yours. Referring to some period as ‘our time’ is usually the young age between sixteen to thirty. Those who stop coloring their gray hair get criticism from the people.
The reason why is youth more charming, is because we have reserved all the entertainment and pleasures for the youth and ignored the elderly. It generates a feeling of sadness while thinking that the youth pass in a glimpse of eye.
We have a lot in our common discourse and language that discriminates all other age groups. For instance, ‘abhi to mein jawan hun’, ‘buddha hoga tera baap’. We commonly hear our elders saying that ‘in our time we had very decent movies and music…’ This is said irrespective of the fact that they are still living. Chasing opportunities of fun are prohibited for our elders. Women are expected to dress up in a certain socially approved manner. The deviant women who wear bright colors like red and pink, are judged. This reminds me of an idiom in local language: ‘budhi ghori laal lagam’.Eventually people refrain from breaking these norms for the fear of being judged.
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Smiling and appearing happy is considered bad for some social statuses such as ‘responsible mother’. Once you become a mother, people expect you to maintain serious expressions. Unrealistic expectations of people burden individuals who are aging and kills the human desires such as having fun and being happy and laughing.
Why and how health belongs merely to the young age?
Television drama and advertisement mainly surround the social issues and problems of youth mainly.
The narratives are changing globally. People are increasingly taking interest in grey hair revolution as a demonstration of aging fearlessly. Young women in their twenties and thirties are embracing their natural grey hair. It should be the self-confidence, achieved status and the overall personality that makes a person attractive rather than the qualities of young age.
Our societal web is knitted as to control and judge each other. Children control parental behaviors and choices in their old age. Wecall it ‘Allah Allah kerne ki umar’, for the elders in our families. We must address the sadness associated with the sight of winkles and scars to normalize ageing. Respecting elders is one of our social values. But the freedom that our elders enjoy contradicts this social value of respect.
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In essence, getting better with age is in fashion. Some female celebrities are aging gracefully setting example for the public. But agelessness is an unmeetable standard for the masses. What so ever, self-love should be promoted. Individually we should worry less about the opinions of people and do what makes us happy within the boundaries of culture.We need to rationally re-define our general attitudes for our own sake. We need to strengthen this age group before begin to identify ourselves in it. Positive attitude towards life, aging and death may help live longer. Aging is certain but learning to own it can make life better.
Dr. Aisha Jalil is an Associate Professor of Sociology,in the School of Integrated Social Sciences, University of Lahore. Her research interests include health and social inequalities. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.