Yesterday, I started a conversation with my 33 year old marketing manager about age and the undercurrent of how society felt about aging. These are the secret thoughts and perceptions about ageism we all have but usually don’t speak about.

What started me thinking about this topic was seeing stores like “Forever 21” in the mall with the not so subtle implication about ageism in its name. Those of us of a “certain age” will also remember Bob Dylan’s song “Forever Young” recorded in 1974, so clearly, this glorification of youth is not a new phenomenon. Dylan’s wish for us was, “may you stay forever young.”

In preparing to write about this I also ran across recent media traffic about Madonna, the “Queen of Pop,” feeling marginalized by younger performers. At 56 she has struggled to get the airplay of her music. She believes it is due to the emphasis the music industry places on youth. In an interview she said, “We’ve made so many advances in other areas – civil rights, gay rights – but ageism is still an area that’s taboo and not talked about and dealt with ….. If you’re not in your twenties, it’s hard.”

The Paradox of Aging 

You’ve already heard my thoughts on the so-called midlife crisis, but I haven’t yet taken a deep-dive into discussing the dreaded word “aging.”  Do you know what my marketing manager said?

Well, at 33, she views it from the other end – she gets discriminated against for her age all the time too.

“You’re too young to understand what I mean,” she’s told. Others refer to her as, “Oh, you kids wouldn’t understand.” She also hears the occasional, “You’re just a baby!”

She went on to tell me that she had just purchased a house and was diligently planning her organic garden. She was frustrated juggling her finances to make sure she could manage an investment in her Roth IRA this year.  How much more adult could she feel? Yet still she is perceived as a “kid.”

Meanwhile, my indignation at Forever 21 was brimming over exactly the opposite way; Why would I want to be forever 21 or forever young? What is wrong with being the age you are – whatever that is?

 You’re Only as Old as You Feel

Opening this can of proverbial worms really changed my perception of aging. At the end of the day, we are all people. We each have hopes, dreams, and goals. And we’re each looking up the chain, or down it, thinking different things.

As you go about your day, I challenge you to think about the way you perceive the “kids” at the mall. Pay attention to your reactions to a 20 year old coworker and a 30 year old coworker. What about the 40 something  person standing in line next to you and 50 something or 60 year old coworker, too.

At what age do they start to feel like colleagues instead of kids? Or at what age does someone start to feel like they have become a wise mentor or someone who is too old to know “what’s happening.” How do you treat each person differently?

When we start to examine the perception of aging, we quickly realize that age, it seems, is, in fact, just a number.

This is a topic can challenge our ingrained beliefs about age. Let’s start a conversation. What is your reaction to age?


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Dr. Ines K. RoeDr. Ines K. Roe has been helping women in transition rediscover themselves for over 20 years. If you’ve  been feeling unfulfilled, are frustrated with your sense of accomplishment in midlife, or simply need guidance on your path to holistic well being, join her ecourses.