Why Is Our Culture So Afraid of Getting Older?

by Self-Knowledge, Spiritual Warfare, Value of Human Life

One of the many commercials that form part of Dove’s Beauty campaign, this video addresses what is probably one of the biggest fears of our time: age.

A study of 2,000 women conducted by Superdrug in 2012 found that women start to worry about the signs of aging at 29. In a society that seems to be increasingly focused on clinging to youth, the question “what happened?” to the excitement these women had about showing off each year they had gained in life is something that could be asked of society as a whole.

From the organizers of American Idol who limit the age of participants to 25, to the mass production of “anti-aging” beauty products and on to the companies who hire out young, attractive employees over those who are older and have more experience, the question remains the same: what happened to our perception of age, and at what point did we begin to fear it or view it as something to be ashamed of?

What if we said “Pro-Age instead of “Anti-Age?”

In comparison to the first video, Dove has also produced this second commercial on the topic of age that attempts to go beyond the “anti-aging” mentality, and portrays age as something positive, and as a different stage of beauty that we should be proud of.

In fact, my 92-year-old grandmother has told me often that as she has advanced in the elderly stage of her life, she has often heard people murmuring about how old she is. When asked about her age, my grandmother said she would reply “I’m 92 years young, and I earned every one of them!”

By putting beauty into the confines of what we as a society construct, we are going against the fundamental dignity that we as human beings have since we are created in the image and likeness of God. Because our dignity comes from God, who is immortal and exists outside of time, there is nothing that can take our dignity or beauty away or even limit it, including age.

Aside from public speaking, the topic of aging, including our imminent death, is one of the greatest fears of all time, and we frequently attach false ideas to age, such as the thought that we can’t do or accomplish as much as when we were young, or that we are out of touch with modern society, or that we don’t have as much, if anything at all, to contribute to society anymore.

“No matter how old you are, you live”

Although not all of the names and ages given in this video are necessarily considered “old,” the average person in their 50s is hardly considered in their prime, however this video shows that no matter what society might think, history confirms that age is no obstacle to what we are capable of contributing to the world.

In a society that often ascribes a person’s value to what they can do, it’s important to remember that even those appear to have nothing to give still hold enormous value – a value that isn’t limited to human accomplishments. Think of, for example, a newborn baby: what can they give to the world? Nothing on a practical level – they cry, eat and sleep, and are in need of constant care and attention, yet they are considered precious and invaluable to their families. The same goes for the elderly.

The vocation of the elderly

Pope Francis has often spoken about the topic of the elderly since his election as Bishop of Rome just over a year and a half ago, saying that they are one of the most marginalized and discarded populations in the world. Often considered to be useless, the elderly instead “have always been protagonists in the Church, and they remain so to this day….they, in spite of inevitable ‘ailments,’ sometimes serious, are always important, indeed, indispensable” the Pope told a group of health care workers last November.

He even held the first-ever audience dedicated exclusively to elderly and grandparents in September of this year, during which he said that old age, rather than being a burden, “is a time of grace in which the Lord renews us in his call: he calls us to protect and transmit the faith, he calls us to pray, especially to intercede; he calls us to be close to those in need.”

With the capacity to understand the most difficult situations, the elderly and grandparents possess a special strength and power in their prayers, he said and because of this they are entrusted with the great task “to transmit life experience, the history of a family, of a community, of a people; to share wisdom with simplicity, and the same faith: the most precious legacy!” And to “continue to bear fruit” as they give witness even amid the “most difficult trials.”

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