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Image by Super Snapper on Unsplash.

We see tons of stories on Medium and elsewhere. AARP has an online collection called (for reasons I don’t think I want to know) The Ethel. Medium of course has Crows Feet, which I’ve written about elsewhere. Then of course lots of people like me are writing…not to mention the leading outlets, such as the New York Times.

(1) What’s the message you’re sending? Take a moment to write it out BEFORE you write the whole article. If I spend 3 to 10 minutes reading your piece, what will I walk away with?

For instance, I recently wrote about one article in the  New York Times. The author reported on his diminished physical capacity. He has trouble getting in and out of taxis. His article was called, “What they don’t tell you about getting older.”

I suspect he intended to say, “Don’t feel bad if you can’t do certain things as you get older. Most people of a certain age can’t do those things.”

I’m sure he didn’t intend the message he really sent: “I’m a self-appointed spokesperson for people of my age. I represent everybody!

Never mind that geriatricians famously say, “If you’ve seen one 80-year-old, you’ve seen one 80-year-old.” What that means is you can’t generalize from what scientists call “an n of 1.”

Remember, Willie Murphy – the bodybuilder who threw out the burglar, was 82.  She’s still working out at age 86. I’m betting she had no problem getting in and out of taxis.

(2) Suppose someone over 60 were applying for a job or a freelance gig. And suppose an employer or potential client read your article.

Would they come away thinking, “I’d better not hire anyone in that age group. They’re falling apart physically. They’re mentally weaker. Those stereotypes are valid. Ageism rocks!”

Would. they feel good about referring to their 60+ employees and applicants as geezers and grandmas?

Would they assume an older person doesn’t know tech?

Or would they say, “Wow…I’m impressed by what people can do at ANY age. Maybe I should look at the whole person, not the number; I can’t assume this professional will be like my grandparents.”

(3)  Are you associating a specific quality or problem with age?

Very few situations are 100% attributable to age. Yes, some conditions will be more common among people of specific ages, but the correlation is nowhere near 100%.  For instance, many older people experience disabilities…but the number is less than 50%. So there’s what scientists call an intervening variable (the term varies among disciplines).

For instance, many older people got covid…but I’ve yet to see studies that control for comorbidities. It’s not age: it’s age PLUS another factor.

Older people can’t sleep? Let’s look at the facts.

If you say “Older people can’t do tech,” you’re not talking about age: you’re looking at a generation. Those who turn 70 in 2050 will be just fine with tech.

Anyway, people vary. I know two people who started web development companies in their 60s and continue now into their 70s.  I also know people in their 30s and 40s who are clueless about the Internet.

Music works that way too. I happen to like country music. My favorite coffee shop has a barista in his early thirties who’s acting manager one day a week. He plays classic country.

Besides, assuming age means an inevitable decline will be hazardous to your health (as well as inaccurate).

I recently wrote an article about the need to get tough with yourself.

Ellen Langer’s work should be studied by everyone over 50 as well as those who treat people over 50. Doctors and NPs, I’m looking at you! Start with this article. Google her name on YouTube. She’s a Harvard professor who claims a lot of aging effects are attributable to mindset, not age.

Recently, researchers also suggested that cognitive decline isn’t necessarily about aging. It’s about not exercising the brain. They saw marked improvements in mental activity among people who took classes and gave their brains a workout.

It’s all too easy to say, “I can’t learn that. I’m too old.” And that’s the slippery slope to, “What can I expect, at my age?” And that’s the definition of self-fulfilling prophecy.