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CONTRIBUTORS

OP-ED: It stinks getting old! Really?

Cathy Bollinger
York County Community Foundation

While waiting to pick up a to-go order, I overheard a conversation between an employee and customer. The customer appeared to be in her 70s and the employee appeared to be in her 40s. It also appeared that the customer was someone who supported the business routinely. The employee asked the customer how she was doing, and the customer shared she was having some pains. After listening, the employee quickly responded, “It stinks getting old!”  She then went on to say, “But it’s OK, because I tell your daughter every time I see her that her mom looks good for her age. You’re a young old person.” 

Do you find the words used by the employee to describe aging offensive? Although meant as a compliment, the message conveyed is aging is bad, but you’re OK (perhaps even better off) because you don’t have the wrinkles, crepe skin, gray hair, posture, or gait of a typical older person. 

We live in a society that, too often, views aging as only impairment and decline. We automatically use words and phrases that project negativity on growing older. This is ageism. 

Ageism is still an accepted form of social prejudice that affects everyone and impacts everything.  

This leads to:

  • Age discrimination in housing and employment.
  • A profound influence on the type and amount of health care offered, requested and received.
  • Lowered expectations about one’s abilities and interests.
  • Community decisions being made that do not consider the needs and desires of older people.

York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging initiative believes it’s time to end this negative thinking about aging, and it begins with you. And our new campaign gives you the tools necessary to become Disrupters of Aging. 

With the help of community leaders, we’ve created a video that shows the benefits of reframing negative phrases about aging. We also created TASK: four specific action items for people to do, regardless of their age, to join our movement to disrupt the way York countians view aging. We’re also hosting a series of virtual discussions with older York countians, who will share their insights, humor, wisdom, and stories with us about aging. Visit www.EmbracingAging.org to learn more about these items and more.

Why is this important? People are living longer. They are doing and spending more.  They are reimagining life beyond traditional retirement age, and they don’t want to be put in a stereotypical box about how to live their later years. 

Forty percent of York countians are age 50 and older and contribute over $1 billion dollars to our local economy. Our community and workplaces gain a wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and energy from being inclusive of the needs and desires of all ages. When we address ageism, we create more opportunities for living a vibrant life as we each get older — including better housing options, more effective health care and a stronger sense of belonging.  And most importantly, when we address ageism, York countians, on average, will live 7.5 years longer.

It’s time we care about and respect everyone, regardless of age. It’s time for us to be disrupters of ageism and usher in a new age to York County. When we do, it will make:

  • Our community better.
  • The lives of our parents and those we care about better.
  • Our older self glad we played a part in creating an age-friendly York County.

Contact Cathy Bollinger, managing director of Embracing Aging at cbollinger@yccf.org or 717-848-3733 to share your thoughts on this. Visit www.EmbracingAging.org to learn more about your role in addressing ageism and how you can bring an Embracing Aging presentation to your business, organization, school, club or event. 

York County Community Foundation’s Embracing Aging is a long-term initiative that focuses on improving how people experience aging in York County by disrupting negative views on aging and working towards creating an age-friendly community. York County Community Foundation creates a vibrant York County by engaging donors, providing community leadership, and investing in high-impact initiatives while building endowments for future generations. To learn more about us, visit www.yccf.org.