Fighting Ageism for Your Mental, Physical, and Financial Health
Recently, a smattering of patients came to me for a "refresher" of their appearances. Some sought Botox to look less stressed, some filler to help ease the signs of fatigue.
I learned later that these requests stemmed from frustrations at work. One patient with decades of industry experience and sterling references was passed over for a younger applicant who “will learn new things and is not stuck in her ways.” Another patient was snubbed out of "mother" roles and instead offered "grandmother" roles, despite only being in her forties.
The resounding undertone was loud and clear - age matters. And it affects us in ways that we don’t even realize.
With the exponential growth of the digital era, the average age of a CEO seems to have gotten younger by almost a decade - making a 40-year-old in tech considered old. Such industries, like tech and entertainment, lower the proverbial bar for ageism. This combined with longer life expectancies means the population that is most susceptible to ageism is rapidly expanding.
Though it may seem archaic that ageism still exists in our modern-day workplace, experts can assure you that it is alive and well. In fact, 64% of Americans can attest to either witnessing or experiencing age discrimination at work.
Moreover, the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that resumes of older women get called back the least when compared to older men or younger applicants of either gender.
Though ageism can cut both ways, it most often affects those over 40. In fact, discriminating against employees on the basis of age is not even considered illegal unless you are over 40.
And aside from the financial repercussions of ageism, there are actual physical and mental reasons to combat ageism. Studies have shown that people with a positive outlook on aging are most likely to recover better from illnesses.
It is well understood that higher levels of stress-related hormone cortisol can deleteriously affect your physical health, as well as increase risks of cognitive changes. The data is amassing - so much so that, in 2016, the W.H.O. invested more than half a million dollars in research to study the causes and effects of, as well as potential treatment strategies for, ageism in the older population.
So, how can we combat ageism? Below are fives changes to our physical and mental health to un-retire yourself.
[Related: Steps to Curb Ageism in the Job Hunt Process]
1) Stay physically healthy.
As you are afflicted by ailing health, it is easy to feel "more your age" or have a negative perception of age; however, by succumbing to this perspective, you are less likely to seek preventive care.
In turn, by staying physically healthy, you are more likely to view aging positively, and thus seek out the necessary and recommended preventative health care.
2) Stay mentally healthy.
Studies have found that patients who view their purpose and lives as less valuable have a higher risk of developing depression and social isolation.
In fact, a recent study by Dr. Becca Levy found possible links between negative perceptions of aging with an increase in certain physiologic changes in your brain, often correlated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, a study tracking subjects 50 years and older revealed negative attitudes toward aging to be associated with a shorter lifespan – up to seven-and-a-half years fewer than those with more positive attitudes towards aging.
Thus, maintaining a positive outlook on all aspects of life, including your age and the aging process, will have a tremendous impact on your mental livelihood.
3) Look like a professional.
Early research has suggested that physical appearances matter more for women than men. Everything is critiqued – the hairstyle, the make-up, the wardrobe.
As much as we want to consciously or subconsciously deny it, appearances do matter and we are judged, even if it’s subliminal. Exalting a high level of polish and professionalism will offer you both the worth and credibility desired by employers.
4) Be independent.
Avoid learned helplessness; if you believe that you cannot do something simply because of your age, then you are your own barrier.
Continue to stay up-to-date on your field and the pertinent technological advances. If additional training is offered through your work, sign up for it with zeal.
The goal is to look like a self-starter – motivated, eager, and determined to excel at your job.
5) Stay social.
Creating a mental divide between you and your younger colleagues will only continue to widen the mental age gap, instead of closing it. In fact, a study involving intergenerational e-mail communication between college students paired with older adults demonstrated remarkable improvement in the perception and attitude toward the older generation.
Often, these relationships can be cultivated via the foundation of a mentorship, which provides endless advantages for all involved. Staying useful, relevant, and necessary will only further enhance your worth in the eyes of your employer.
Age is truly just a number, and there is no reason for it to hinder the potential for job opportunities or job advancements. Not only will your future financial self thank you, but your physical and mental self, as well.
[Related: Confessions of a Baby Boomer]
Dr. Natalie H. Attenello, M.D., is a double-board certified facial plastic surgeon and hair restoration specialist who specializes in all aspects of facial surgery. Her main priority is the health and wellness of her patients, both mentally and physically.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
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