The dominant culture has appropriated the idea of active aging to abet the status quo, damaging several people in the process.
by Michael Grech
That a person remains active after s/he retires from full time employment is something that ought to be encouraged. However, what is so bad about the idea of active aging is that it is promoted as an ideal for each senior person to live by. In this way it becomes Fascist because it assumes that everyone can live according to the prescribed ideal. It does not take into consideration that, because of their state of health, their psychological condition and indeed their age, some people cannot remain active citizens.
Some will inevitably wet themselves, become vulnerable in various ways, grumble, be annoyed by the company of others and possibly get tired of living. Some will just want to be left alone; for very good reasons. These should be helped to face their ordeals and inactivity, and not pathologised for failing or not wanting to live according to the active aging ideal or, worse, blamed for their situation. Nor should people which exhibit these (natural) traits be left out of the sanitised picture that is being given of old age.
Cases in point are TV news features from old people’s homes during times like the Christmas season, where only those that enjoy some event that is being reported are shown and interviewed. That there would have been people who, for good reasons, may have not wanted to have anything to do with the event is something that whoever produces the news report will leave out. The nice jolly picture is made to appear as the default position. Hard luck if you don’t fit.
The idea of active aging as it is frequently promoted is biased in favour of those who have been engaged in certain occupations rather than others. It is easier to remain active in your old-age if you are a pen-pusher (as yours truly) than if you worked in a quarry or scrubbed floors for most of your life. By promoting one and only one model of how senior-citizens can live decently, we might be perpetuating in old age bias people may have experienced in their youth and adulthood.
The idea of active aging may also help current capitalist consumerist society in turning a blind eye to natural phenomena which are inconsonant with the ethos of unbridled consumption and hedonism, phenomena like pain, death as well as old-age and the symptoms that are normally associated to the latter. (Apart from the fact that for each of these phenomena, capitalism creates and sustains a market.) The religious paradigms of yesteryear could, despite any misgivings one might have about these, enable one to accept and deal with such phenomena. The current secular capitalism which has no concept of sacred (i.e. except for the holiness of profit) cannot do so.
The idea, as is it is employed in the media and in the other sites where consent is created also involves a contradiction. If one accepts that, for an old person to be OK they have to act young, then one is accepting that there is something wrong about being old. It is as though one claims that being black or a woman is OK, provided one acts white or male.
Moral of the story: handle each bright and humane ideal promoted by the media, by NGOs, by experts and by other agencies that manufacture consent with critical gloves.
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