It’s common to see young people look up to athletes and celebrities, but as we grow older and become more self-assured, many of us lose our role models. But no matter your age, it helps to have someone to look up to as an example of success. This is particularly true for people who live in a culture where age is regarded as a stigma, which can fill people with misconceptions about aging and prevent them from living their lives to the fullest.
Overcoming Negative Attitudes
People are living longer than ever before, and the world is quickly filling with senior citizens. In fact, in places like Japan and the United States, senior citizens are the fastest-growing segment of the population. Many people now live decades longer than their great grandparents, leaving them with the question of how they want to spend that time.
But whether or not that time is a gift may depend largely on your point of view. Unfortunately, American society has no shortage of poor attitudes and stereotypes about aging, which can be a considerable detriment to seniors. Study after study has concluded the same thing; our attitudes about aging do, in fact, affect our health, our resilience, and ultimately our ability to stay alive. And that’s exactly why role models matter: they help seniors challenge the negative stereotypes about aging.
Finding a Role Model
Vera Lynn was a popular musical performer in the 1940s. Not content to give up her music, more than six decades later, the then-97-year-old decided to continue her career with a brand new album in 2014 and became the oldest living artist to crack the UK Top 20 charts.
By contrast, renowned folk artist Grandma Moses didn’t begin her career painting until the age of 78 but went on to leave a permanent mark on the artistic world with her talents.
The world is full of great senior role models, if only you take the time to look.
Generally speaking, good role models for seniors usually have two things in common: they’re older, and they’re active in life. No matter what it is they’re doing, that activity demonstrates the kind of quality of life that can be enjoyed in our later years.
While a good senior role model has lived a long and successful life, this may not be entirely by accident. At least one study has found that older adults with a more positive outlook on aging live nearly eight years longer than those with negative stereotypes!
Of course, simply having a role model isn’t enough; it’s the actions that role model inspires you to take that really matter. And for seniors who do act, the rewards are great. Nearly three-quarters of elderly people who make some kind of impact on their community — whether it’s through volunteering, mentoring, or otherwise using their talents – report that they never have feelings of loneliness.
These days, even seniors who can’t get out of the house can make a difference by interacting with online communities through things like social media. Similar to volunteering, community interaction through social media has been proven to fight off loneliness, which can be as dangerous to seniors as obesity or smoking. And there are plenty of senior role models to follow (in both senses of the word) on social media; including people like Betty White, Larry King, Patrick Stewart, and Jane Goodall, who have used their platform to raise attention to important issues, dispense wisdom, and to generally be a community resource.
A role model for senior citizens can be essentially anyone who has aged successfully, anyone who can serve as an inspiration so that we can try and emulate their success. And having that role model can help provide the guidance necessary to ensure your golden years live up to their name.
Who is your senior role model? Do they live next door or are they someone you follow on social media? If you’re a senior, who and what inspires you? And how are you striving to be a senior role model for those in your community and beyond?