Haims: Ageism is pervasive in American society
Haims: Ageism is pervasive in American society The Aspen Times
Sustainable Development Goals and Ageism
Ageism, according to the Merriam Webster, is defined as: prejudice or discrimination against a particular age group — especially the elderly.
Western and Eastern Perspectives on Aging
It should not be a point of contention or debate that aging is viewed differently in Western and Eastern societies. While a generality, American culture does not view aging favorably. Often Western culture views aging with fear and ambivalence. Death is the enemy; it’s feared and viewed as an end — marginalized. Youth, beauty, and the avoidance of frailty are far more favored.
Conversely, in many Eastern societies, aging is generally viewed with a bit more compassion, reverence, respect and with historical and cultural foundations. Such views may be derived from a Confucian philosophy and moral obligation like filial piety. Filial piety is best explained as the idea that parents, grandparents, and older people should be treated with honor and respect. It is the homage that children owe to their older parents and ancestry.
Erik Erikson’s Theory of Aging
It’s ironic that after almost 40 years of having been introduced to the studies of psychoanalysts Erik Erikson back in college that I now find myself truly understanding his theory of the eight psychosocial stages of aging. In short, he believed that each of the stages built a foundation of the following and that each stage could either positively or negatively affect personality development.
Perhaps it is during the stages that encompass the ages of 3 to 18 (play age, school age, adolescence) that Western society’s cultural norms of not respecting and even fearing aging is instilled. The stigma regarding aging and the lack of understanding of the cycle of life is, in my opinion, a harm to society we all must take part in undoing.
The Western View of Aging
While certainly not the norm in comparison to the rest of the country, growing up in Los Angeles was unique in many ways. I was surrounded by a culture of “new” — new modern homes, new architecture, and all things that were the latest and greatest. California was, and is, a sunny place where the young frolic at the beach, clubs, music scene, and Hollywood glamorizes the young and beautiful. Unfortunately, looking young remains a sign of beauty and of vitality while aging is too often considered frailty and thus unwelcome — unrespected.
Aging has a multitude of negative effects on people’s physical and mental well-being. It is a pernicious issue that causes irreparable harm to our physical and mental health and impedes us from living a full life. Our western view of aging takes form in so many ways of youth preservation — particularly our adoration of cosmetic surgery.
Does it come as a shock that the United States leads the world in the sheer numbers of plastic surgical procedures performed in the world? Depending on where data comes from, most sources agree that the U.S. far surpasses other countries in the number of persons receiving cosmetic surgeries. According to data from Cosmetic Surgery Solicitors in the UK, numbers in the U.S. almost double that of second place Brazil. Data provided from STATISTA indicates that the number could be triple that of Brazil. Looking young is a business that has permeated the very fabric of our society.
Billionaires like Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI), Peter Thiel (PayPal), and Bryan Johnson (Braintree) have invested in big money in companies like the Methuselah Foundation and Google’s Calico to fend off aging and turn back our biological clock. While the research is showing the opportunity flush worn cells (senescent) from the body that cause DNA damage, telomere dysfunction, and ultimately, inflammation, the ultimate goal may be more morally dubious than advancing societal health and well-being.
In many cases, Eastern cultures view aging and death as a part of continuing of life itself. The focus on family and respect for elders has been long-established and developed through their values and culture thus, influences their perception of life as a whole. In general, many Eastern societies view elders with reverence as they have gained great knowledge due to their time on earth and life experiences.
Embracing Aging and Finding Purpose
It is my opinion that here in the USA, we tend to focus more on what we are trying to accomplish here and now than having the forethought to see what lies ahead. We are all going to get old — accepting it may mitigate much fear and anxiety. Aging includes many transitions that help us understand our place in time and our place and purpose with those we care about.
As we age, there will be times of both sorrow and joy as well as health and illness. It is important to learn productive ways to cope with such challenges. Time often helps us gain perspective and experience. We should focus on the many things we are thankful for and learn to be accepting of the things we cannot change. A focus on friends, family, and the well-being of our community is integral.
Until a future time, life will have a finite timeframe. It does not last forever, so accept reality and live with purpose every day. Things don’t always happen to us, sometimes they happen for us. Life is built on experiences. Live life and share your experiences with those you love.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels
SDGs, Targets, and Indicators
|SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being||Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being||No specific indicators mentioned in the article|
|SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities||Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status||No specific indicators mentioned in the article|
|SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities||Target 11.7: By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities||No specific indicators mentioned in the article|
1. Which SDGs are addressed or connected to the issues highlighted in the article?
- SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being
- SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities
- SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
The article discusses ageism and the negative effects of aging on physical and mental well-being. It also highlights the cultural differences in the perception of aging between Western and Eastern societies. These issues are connected to the SDGs mentioned above.
2. What specific targets under those SDGs can be identified based on the article’s content?
- Target 3.4: By 2030, reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being
- Target 10.2: By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic, and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
- Target 11.7: By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
The article emphasizes the negative effects of aging on physical and mental health, highlighting the need to promote mental health and well-being (Target 3.4). It also discusses ageism and the importance of promoting social inclusion regardless of age (Target 10.2). Additionally, it mentions the cultural differences in the perception of aging and the need for inclusive spaces for older persons (Target 11.7).
3. Are there any indicators mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets?
No specific indicators are mentioned or implied in the article that can be used to measure progress towards the identified targets.
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