‘Age is just a number.‘ ‘You are as young or old as you feel.’ ‘Age has nothing to do with what you can achieve in life.’ You hear these and similar truisms being thrown around all the time. If you are twenty, you are probably saying this to your fifty-year-old aunt on her birthday. If you are the aforementioned fifty-year-old aunt, you are probably saying it to yourself every day in an attempt to buoy up your flagging confidence in social and professional situations alike. Let’s face it. Society is obsessed with youth, and people will go to any length to look and feel younger.
Many a mid-career professional has seen that much-awaited promotion goes to a younger colleague despite putting in more effort. The only option she has is to fume in silence. Confronting the higher-ups about it might well lead to being laid off altogether. Not too many people want to take that chance when landing a new job also becomes exponentially more difficult once one hits ‘a certain age’.
Then there is the dating game. It is common knowledge that it becomes more and more difficult to find a suitable partner as one gets up there in terms of age. Probably the most devastating scenario is of relationships, and even marriages, being wrecked because of one partner dumping the other in favor of a younger mate.
And while both men and women are subjected to some form of ageism at some point in their lives, women seem to be harder hit. But it doesn’t have to be this way. At the end of the day, ageism is a type of bias. Here are a few subtle strategies you can use to nip that bias in the bud:
Never lie about your age.
It is only natural to become sensitive about one’s age as that first pesky grey hair appears or at the first hint of a wrinkle. Women often start dreading the question, “So, how old are you?” First of all, that is an inappropriate question to ask in any situation. And it is tempting to cook up a fictitious response. But before you go down that path, just think – you have not committed a crime being whatever age you are. You are who you are because of the time you spent on this planet. Just look them in the eye and answer their question. And move on to a more interesting topic of conversation.
Find a look that you are comfortable with and stick to it.
You don’t have to get a cropped haircut just because you are over forty. If you are comfortable with your shoulder-length hair, by all means, stick to it. That said, many women do opt for a very short haircut when they hit their forties and may look perfectly fabulous. But the operative word here is ‘comfort’. As long as you are comfortable in your skin, the confidence shows. Ditto for your dressing style. Trying to drastically alter the way you look just because you’ve reached a certain age may not work to your advantage.
Don’t get intimidated by youth.
Yes, it is nice to be young. And young people often do display an attitude of entitlement that could make you long for your own younger days. But it is nicer to have the wisdom and maturity your age has bestowed upon you. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Wouldn’t you rather enjoy your life with the advantages of broader knowledge and better self-awareness than make the same juvenile mistakes again?
Create your network of like-minded souls and enjoy it.
The best part of growing older is probably a tried and tested support system one has built over a lifetime. Be it, close friends or family members, they know who you are and respect you for it. Within your network, you never need to pretend to be something you are not. Your worst secrets are safe with them. Nurture your network constantly and you will have a growing tribe of like-minded souls to age with. It might turn out to be a fun process.
There is no such thing as ‘acting your age.’
If you’re sixty and have the spirit of a twenty-year-old, embrace it. Whenever we hear the word ‘age’, we associate it with the image of some frumpy individual leading a humdrum life. But the so-called ‘aged’ people in society have proved time and again that they can match or even surpass the contribution of a younger person. Be it in the field of science, innovation, literature, or music, the ‘elderly’ have often held sway. What matters is the passion you have for your chosen activity and not how long you have been around. So the next time someone tells you to ‘act your age’, you should have no problem telling them, without flinching, that, that is exactly what you are doing.
Have you been at the receiving end of ageism? Share your story.