Partners in Prevention: Doctors, aging stereotypes, and the new young.

Our stereotypes about aging shape our ideas about what it means to grow old. In our culture, anti-aging is talked about more often than the fact that we are hard-wired at a DNA level to age. As the saying goes, “Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” So, how do we foster a shift in perspective so we see aging as a right-of-passage, a privilege, a natural step in our own human development? It begins by shifting our focus on the value of youth.

“Who we are and how we are in the world is defined by our status as children, adolescence, and adults”, said geriatrician, Dr. Bill Thomas in a TED Talk. He goes on to say that, “older people in our American society have standing to the degree that older people can do the things that young people do. What happens when they can’t? They disappear.”

Crafting new concepts of what it looks like to grow old is a two-step process. It will involve both draining our ideas on aging of their negative associations and replacing them with positive connotations. For example, what if our focus was on health instead of youth? What if healthy was the new young? How might we plan for the later portions of our lives if our well-being and health were a priority?

As health care consumers, we often view our doctors as professionals who patch us up when things break and set us back on the road; however, what if we viewed our doctors as partners in prevention? Our relationship with our doctors and health care providers will play a huge role in making “healthy” the new “young”. From reducing healthcare costs, to reducing risks of injury and disease, to living a higher quality of life, our health is a powerful factor in influencing how we age. Here are 5 questions to check in with yourself and 5 questions to discuss with you doctor to get you on the road to being well and aging well.  

Health Self-Check In

  • What lifestyle choices am I making that directly impact my health for the positive?
  • What lifestyle choices am I making that directly impact my health for the negative?
  • What goals/ ambitions do I have in my life? What physical capacity will I need to support my ambitions?
  • What attitudes do I have toward health and aging that are helpful and which ones need to be revamped?
  • What support systems and relationships do I have that motivate me to be healthy and how can I cultivate more of them?

Questions to Discuss with Your Doctor

  • What health risks should I be aware of because of my family history, age, gender, or lifestyle?
  • What simple changes could make a big impact in my physical abilities such as stability, flexibility, and strength?
  • What diet/ supplemental vitamins do you recommend for me?
  • How can I track my progress in meeting my health goals?
  • Are there any tests that I should start taking at my age or in the near future?

Aging is a natural part of life and as we mature, we continue to grow and develop as human beings. Making sure that our minds and bodies are focused on our health will transform the way that we think about and live into our age. 

Published on March 12, 2014.