The need for empowerment for elders was made clear by our previous article, Part 1: What Does Our Future Hold.
The following statistics, quoted at the 2014 UN Convention for the Rights of Older Persons, reveal the urgency of looking at what the future holds for ageing in society: 'In Australia, the average life expectancy is now over 80 for both men and women and rising . . .
If elders are a rapidly growing cohort in future societies what does the future hold for them to remain empowered as contributing members of humanity?
Will it mean that elders need to actively embrace the changes that they are faced with in their elder years?
From our conversations recently with friends and people we surveyed, we have identified some of the challenges, difficulties and changes to their lifestyles that need to be addressed as we grow older:
Retirement – after retiring from a successful career and working life and no longer having personal identification as a professional, we may feel we are no longer recognised as a worthwhile person.
Financial status – if we were financially well-off and are now living on a pension, we may be struggling to maintain the quality of life that we enjoyed before retirement.
Loneliness – many older people feel the lack of connection with family members, old friends and the community which can be exacerbated by increased demographic mobility.
Loss of Identity – if we don’t have a job or children to raise do we then feel unimportant to ourselves and others and feel as if we have no real purpose in life?
Body image – fear of fading ‘good looks’ can be very hard, especially for women, as there is so much pressure to stay looking younger. We are bombarded with images by the media and by ageism in society.
Health – with our bodies breaking down there may be frustration and anger at being incapacitated or feeling weaker and having less energy than we are used to.
Expectations for retirement – many of us subscribe to the notion that we deserve some relief after having worked our whole lives – we feel we deserve a rest – time to do nothing! There is a disappointment when retirement doesn’t match the pictures we hold, or when the importance placed on a bucket list doesn’t fulfil the anticipated promise.
Emotional suffering – when there is undealt with trauma or abuse, lack of self-worth, sadness, addictions, regret, inability to make decisions or move on from the past, we may feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.
Fear of dying – can lead to anxiousness that permeates our thinking and affects our mental state and wellbeing, particularly when family members and friends are dying around us.
All the above challenge empowerment for elders as difficulties and changes can be overwhelming to us as an individual, however, it is possible to change the pictures and labels that society currently holds around ageing.
It is up to us as this new generation of elders to lead the way in setting the new paradigms around ageing. It will be important to change the present way our elders are viewed, treated, looked after and accommodated.
There are more and more older people who are role models, leading the way in embracing change, empowering themselves by accepting the fact that they are growing older and consequently are actively making the necessary changes to their way of living.
At every stage of life there are new opportunities, and in order to turn around the negative stereotypes around ageing we can take things into our own hands by appreciating our lived experience and valuing our worth. With this attitude we are more likely to take responsibility for our health and wellbeing and as we take care of ourselves, we can live with more vitality, joy, purpose and commitment to life.
Through showing that there is another way, there is the potential to change the concept of ageing, which will inspire the whole of society and the generations coming after us that this is a beautiful stage of life – one that is to be valued, honoured and respected.
So, what does the future hold for us when we become actively engaged in our commitment to life during these final decades? Will it mean that elders will need to be proactive in all decision-making processes whether it is personal, physical or political?
Yes, definitely – empowerment for elders is in our hands – now and in the future.
Bernadette C., Ruth A. and Sandra N., Australia
1. UN Convention for the Rights of Older Persons | Australian Human ... https://www.humanrights.gov.au/news/speeches/un-convention-rights-older-persons
Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner
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