By Andrew Walker, MPH; NSGA Director of Health & Well-Being
Older adults are living active lifestyles with increasing numbers participating in organized recreational activities, yet many older persons are often prejudged, discriminated against and unfairly stereotyped. These behaviors, attitudes and actions are generally referred to as ageism. Ageism has gone unchallenged over time and in large remains part of the fabric of American society.
Our world is in the early stages of acknowledging the impact of ageism on older adult well-being and society as a whole. At the National Senior Games Association, we’ve championed positive attitudes towards aging for over 30 years. Our work affirms an important tenet of the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing initiative to give everyone the opportunity to add life to their years, and not just years to their life.
In support of longer lifespans and healthspans, we promote the principles of Olympism and fitness through sports to positively impact how individuals think, feel and act towards age and ageing.
Changing Perceptions on Aging
If you are a Senior Games athlete at any level, congratulations! Your participation is a powerful challenge to ageist stereotypes and contributes to a new culture of well-being for older adults. This impact is multiplied times thousands during the National Senior Games, when over 11,000 athletes ages 50-100+ converge to compete in 20 sports and change perceptions one run, jump and dive at a time.
Combatting ageism, however, can also occur in everyday interactions. People of all ages can help change the narrative by simply starting a conversation. As the Global Campaign to Combat Ageism shares in their guide to initiating conversations on ageism, “Continued, open conversations can help us acknowledge the myths and stereotypes that we have all internalized during a lifetime, recognize ageism when we encounter it and understand that ending discrimination requires collective action.”
I hope you will join me in advocating for an age-friendly world where everyone can thrive.