Do You Stereotype Yourself?
Everyone has a different perception of aging and older people. These perceptions depend greatly on the culture around you and how it treats its aging people. Some cultures treat the elderly as weak and feeble, while others call them sage and wise.
If you grew up in a culture that didn’t value older people, you may also stereotype yourself as you age. Your thoughts and beliefs about aging can also be impacted by the relationships you’ve had with older people. Can you think of any negative stereotypes surrounding aging?
Now stop for a second and think about how you feel about your own body and brain aging. Did you apply any of those stereotypes to yourself?
Research suggests that people who apply negative aging stereotypes to themselves are more likely to suffer from negative health consequences later in life. In one study, people with negative aging stereotypes were more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event. This science suggests that the way you feel about aging people becomes internalized as you age.
But, how does this apply to brain health? Have you ever believed that people lose brain power as they age? Has anyone ever told you losing your memory is inevitable? These ideas are just stereotypes, and not based on science.
A lot of what’s said about aging focusing on the impossibilities, and not the possibilities. It is possible to maintain your brain health as you age. It is even possible to improve your brain health as you age.
Many of the memory loss changes associated with aging can be prevented. For example, exercise can keep the hippocampus healthy, helping you retrieve your memories. Avoiding sugar can promote healthy blood flow to the brain, helping you maintain your cognitive skills.
Aging well and keeping your brain healthy is about adopting brain-changing habits, but it’s also about how you view aging. Just remember that your brain has the power to improve, no matter your age.
- Gelb, Michael J, Howell, Kelly,. (2011). Brain Power: Improve Your Mind as You Age (1st ed.). New World Library.
- Levy, B. R., Zonderman, A. B., Slade, M. D., & Ferrucci, L. (2009). Age Stereotypes Held Earlier in Life Predict Cardiovascular Events in Later Life. Psychological Science, 20(3), 296–298. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2009.02298.x
- Melinda. (2018, November 2). Age-Related Memory Loss—HelpGuide.org. www.helpguide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/age-related-memory-loss.htm