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Ageism Shades our View of the World

A recent article from the New York Times gives some intriguing insight into how old age is viewed from a younger perspective. In geriatric psychiatrist Marc E. Agronin’s piece, “Old Age, From Youth’s Narrow Prism,” he details how “misguided empathy” has trained some humans to incorrectly assume what someone else is experiencing.

In the article, Agronin talks about the case of a 93-year-old woman he encountered and was taken aback by when he asked her what it was like to lose her husband after 73 years of marriage and she responded with “Heaven.” Having been married to a verbally abusive man, she had tolerated decades of an unpleasant marriage. Now in a nursing home, “her life unfolded there over the next year as she threw herself into new activities and relationships in a way that was quite unexpected.” Argronin used this as just one example of the lapse younger minds may make about old age. “It stems in part from an age-centered perspective, in which we view our own age as the most normal of times, the way all life should be,” he said. “At 18 the 50-year-olds may seem ancient, but at 50 we are apt to say the same about the 80-year-olds.”

Agronin said age-centrism is especially enveloping when thinking about nursing homes, but that it’s a mistake that’s continually made when we refuse to see the needs for intimacy even in the most debilitated elderly. He said youth seems to be focused on equating love with sex, while older generation can realize that “love can be an endlessly blossoming flower, felt and expressed in hundreds of ways.” Home Care Assistance Columbus understands that age-centrism may force people to only focus on the negatives of older age. “We imagine the pains of late-life ailments but not the joys of new pursuits,” Agronin said. “We recoil at the losses and loneliness and fail to embrace the wisdom and meaning that only age can bring.”

Try on someone else’s shoes!