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Internalized Ageism and Our Culture's Anti-Aging Stance

Social scientist Dr. Lillian B. Rubin reflects on how her entrenched internalized ageism conflicts with our society's anti-aging approach to growing older:

Yes, the fact that we live longer, healthier lives, is something to celebrate. But it's not without its costs, both public and private. Yes, the definition of old has been pushed back. But no matter where we place it, our social attitudes and behavior meet our private angst about getting old, and the combination of the two all too often distorts our self-image and undermines our spirit.


To me, anti-aging is rooted in ageism and even ableism: you are treating the aging process as a disease rather than an inevitable consequence of not being dead. On the other hand, in studying and promoting successful aging, we are being realistic about how we can make the most of our lives as we grow older.

Though gerontologists have not settled on a singular definition of successful aging, the various theories of successful aging are all rooted in the idea that growing older does not necessarily mean universal and inevitable decline. To varying degrees, we have the power to shape our individual experiences of the aging process, whether it's through physical exercise, maintaining our social networks, and/or keeping our brains active.

What does aging successfully mean to you?

I have my PhD in developmental psychology and my research focuses on various aspects of the aging process. Feel free to ask me any questions. If I don't know the answer, I may be able to direct you to the right place.


Please note that Rubin's article is from 2011 (my friend had just seen it today in her FB newsfeed) and that she died on June 17th at age 90.

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