Forever 21

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Forever 21: Dealing with America’s Fear of Aging and Death

Abstract

It is estimated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention that there will be 71 million U.S. adults over the aged of 65 by 2030 (CDC, 2011, May 11). It can be certain, as was with their predecessors, that the geriatric journey for these adults will be filled with multiple anti-aging face creams and miracle hair growth products as they reluctantly cross over to the last stage of their lives. As shown not only through our media and social interactions’ growing old is not the popular choice. Ironically, the reality is that aging and dying is just as significant as our first breath. It is a journey made by everyone and everything though it is fought with a resistance that cannot be denied. The basis of this paper will discuss the preconceptions and barriers, whether psychological or societal, that is linked with aging, and steadfast approaches that can be used to cope with the aging process and the reality that death is eminent. Keywords: ageism, aging, death, coping, geriatric, fear, quality of life

Forever 21: Dealing with America’s Fear of Aging and Death A study performed by the National Consumer’s League reported that approximately 90 million Americans purchase anti-aging products or have surgical procedures performed to ward off the visible signs of aging each year (Nelson, 2005). As the baby boomer generation moves into their senior years, they may not be prepared for the psychological challenges that their predecessors experienced before them (Daniel, 1994). As Todd Nelson describes in his article, Ageism: Prejudice Against Our Feared Future Self, the old are treated as “second-class citizens with nothing to offer society” (Nelson, 2005, p. 209). A research model concluded that older persons in the United States were perceived as “warm, but incompetent” (Nelson, 2005, p. 215). Research suggests that the stereotyping of the older population is much more severe than originally thought, making it necessary for further research to find ways to reduce the disdain towards aging (Nelson, 2005). The negative attitude associated with aging has not always been this way. Historically, older individuals were once revered, and admired as they were considered wise and experienced. They were the historians of the past, teaching the customs and values to the new, emerging generations (Nelson, 2005). The degeneration towards the old occurred by way of technology through the invention of the printing press which allowed duplication of stories in mass distribution, making the elder’s status less significant. Another factor was the industrial revolution as progress dictated where families lived. This new mobility requirement did not settle well with the less adaptive and older generation, breaking apart the traditional family structure in order to secure employment elsewhere. Growing companies needed strength and adaptability during that time so the younger generation excelled professionally whereas experienced, older applicants were less valued. The advancements in medicine also extended a person’s life expectancy, prolonging the caregiver’s responsibility to its elder (Nelson, 2005). In Todd Nelson’s article, Ageism: Prejudice against Our Feared Future self, he discusses the social prejudices associated with aging, and the subtle ways those prejudices are conveyed. His primary focus is our aging population of baby boomers, and how they will be affected by being stereotyped in ways that are patronizing and degrading (Nelson, 2005). In an effort to thwart such negative attitudes, Jere Daniel, the author of Learning to Love Growing Old, describes a “vanguard” movement that is committed to changing the way aging is perceived. These individuals have evoked the term, “conscious aging” which promotes awareness and acceptance of the aging process as we move through each stage of life. The supporters of this movement confer that aging is not a...
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