Cultural expectations have a funny way of forming without anyone actually giving thought to it. Take getting older. As a society, we have this notion that it is a time of slowing down, withdrawing, and isolating yourself from new experiences, regardless of what your health allows. We’ve treated aging as a time to step aside and to be quiet.
The reason this has happened is because it is believed that the older generations should move out of the way of younger ones. And to be sure, in the mysterious and unpredictable opera of life, there needs to be room for everyone. Younger generations need a chance to develop and see the spotlight. But in the justified concern for younger generations, many have come to believe, or at least act like they believe, that giving up center stage means withering away in the wings. That shouldn’t be the case.
Those ideas about aging are finally beginning to change. We recognize that this isn’t a time to hide away and that sharing the stage means just that: understanding that there a place for everyone. The toddler toddles toward adulthood, and the adult strides toward maturity. But we’re still the same person. There isn’t a reason why those strides should be quiet, unimaginative, and circumscribed.
This is the belief of Institute on Aging, and it’s why we are so excited to join in celebrating Older Americans Month, led by the Administration on Aging (AoA), which is part of the Administration for Community Living. The theme this year is “Age Out Loud.” It is less a slogan than a rallying cry, a clarion call for dignity, adventure, and understanding that no matter what, you are still you. You don’t have to disappear when you get old. Your voice can always be heard.
How You Can Celebrate Older Americans Month
It’s fitting that May is Older Americans Month. It is a month associated with spring, as it transitions into summer, with the trees coming into full bloom and each breeze carrying a little more warmth. And that’s what aging should be considered: a time of blooming, as much as any other point in life.
That’s what this year’s theme is all about. Aging out loud means celebrating every day. It means taking pride in who you are, in this accumulation of memory and experience. It means knowing that the good and the bad that has shaped you, from the moment you took your first mewling breath until this moment, is worth celebrating. It means being confident in who you are.
And that’s what we want to celebrate. There are a lot of ways to do that. Here are some ideas for making Older Americans Month a success:
Part of aging out loud is telling the world that you are happy with who you are. If you love yourself, take a selfie. It’s reductive and limiting to say that technology belongs to a certain generation. Everyone can and should enjoy it. Here are a few selfie options:
- Take a picture of yourself holding a sign that says, “I age out loud because …” with something about yourself, something that you’re proud of, or something you want to advocate.
- Take a picture of yourself aging out loud, whether that is hanging out with friends or spray painting a building (legally, of course).
- Take a groupie! Have a whole collection of friends with signs that proclaiming why they age out loud. It is a tapestry of pride.
When you have the picture, post it on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtags #OAM17, #AgeOutLoud, and #AgeOn, or post it at the AoA Facebook page.
Tell a Story
Another way the AoA encourages people to understand aging out loud is through stories. People are often ashamed to talk about what it means to age and how they have experienced life. We don’t always tell our stories. But we should, for younger people to understand and for our peers to feel comfortable.
There are a lot of ways to tell your story, including
- Online: Go to your Facebook page and write about what being older means to you. It can be about the challenges you’ve overcome or the unexpected joys. Maybe tell a story about how you’ve accomplished something now that you’re older you didn’t think you’d be able to. This is about pride, not in being older, but in being you.
- In a group: Get together with friends and family to talk about life and about aging. It can be a group of peers or a mixed group. It doesn’t matter. What matters is not being ashamed of the passage of time, which is the most natural and wonderful journey of them all.
- In public: Get a group of friends and talk to local interest newspapers, TV shows, or radio shows to tell your stories. There is an audience there, and people will want to hear about your journey. A journalist or producer would love a prepackaged, ready-to-go production.
- Other media: Podcasts, Facebook Live, Periscope, and Instagram are all great ways to age out loud while expressing your creativity. Explore new ways to talk to the world. That’s part of aging out loud.
You’ll notice that a lot these ideas are group-oriented and that is part of the joy of celebrating Older Americans Month. Host events. Contact a local center on aging to talk about programs they are running. Go to talks, performances, and movies. Organize an event in your community to celebrate older Americans.
The idea that older adults should spend their time in the shadows is an old one, and it’s the one older thing we don’t need to celebrate. It’s aged out. But you haven’t. Our driving motto here is to age on: remember that you are still the person you have always been and that should be celebrated.
As long as you recognize that you are still you, still the same person with the same hopes and dreams, the same curiosities and passions, and the same drive for life, there is no need to be quiet. There is no need to silence yourself or still your adventures. It’s time to sing the song of yourself and age out loud.
At Institute on Aging, we celebrate older adults through programs and services, helping people live independently and out loud, with dignity, pride, and adventure. Connect with us today to learn more.