“Old age exists when you start to say, I’ve never felt so young”
– Jules Renard
“When I am told that I am too old to do something, I try to do it right away”
“Death does not come with old age, but with oblivion”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez
What is the social imagination of the elderly from an adult perspective?
First, I want to reflect on the time travel that the old man’s vision took and how that has changed until today. Today, we often have an old negative image in western societiesThere is a myth of “eternal youth” which we believe can hide the passage of time. Today, when it is very fashionable, surgeries and beauty treatments, in their extreme use, are some of the ways to cover the passage of time.
The changes in the body can be posed as a scenario of prejudices and the importance of the skin and being stroked as a means of communication and a means of preventing isolation.
I consider the relevant data increased life expectancy which began to be detected from the second half of the twentieth century and on the decline in the fertility rate. The proportion of people over 60 is growing faster than any other age group in almost all countries. As a result, we need to keep in mind the positive things this period has, which is just being alive. It is a challenge for society to value the role that older people can play and to maximize their quality of life and health, as well as their participation in society.
Old age, as Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development explains, refers us to a psychological struggle of the individual during this vital stage. In today’s society, where advertising and image culture are very important, youth is a growing value and, on the contrary, old age is hidden and denied, to the point that many people of a certain ages live obsessed with the negative feelings associated with aging. This is called gerascophobia.
A culture that rejects old age
Culture rewards young people as symbols of joy, success and fertility, while repudiating old age, associating it with illness, asexuality and the absence of desires or projects. In the collective imagination, they plan sentences like “leave it, it’s old” “are things of the time” “like that because it’s old”, not to mention verbs like “wander” or “repapiejar”, that they are often associated with people of a certain age.
Many professionals who deal with the elderly on a daily basis feel that the elderly are not listened to but silenced. Quite the opposite of what an elderly person needs: to speak and to be listened to, to communicate with his environment and to see that it is useful and valued. Will there be speeches from the greats that we don’t want to hear? This is another of the questions we ask ourselves when we approach the problem.
Prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions about old age
Taking as a reference to the Argentinian gerontopsychiatry Leopoldo Salvarezza and to the American psychiatrist Robert Neil Butler, I consider that viejismo and its social imaginary represent:
- A discriminatory attitude and unfounded prejudices towards the elders.
- The impossibility of placing oneself, in projection, as old.
- Not to know old age as a reality and as a vital stage.
- Confuse old age and illness.
- To confuse old age and senile dementia.
- Fantastic expectations and untested treatments to stop the passage of time and try to achieve “eternal youth”.
- Irrational biomedicalization of the aging process based on the medical paradigm.
- Participation of the own professionals of the health, without gerontological formation, in the criteria of viejismo.
- Collective unconscious of society generally gerontophobic and thanatophobic.
We choose from the desire
Psychoanalysis and its concept of wish it gives us the opportunity to “choose” the age we want to be. We believe that neither happiness nor joy are also attributes of young people lack of desire is also not unique to the elderly. These are prejudices implanted for centuries and which lead the elderly to deny themselves when they feel desires, passions, emotions which are “no longer for their age”.
For this reason we need to be less critical of the body itself and be more critical of social prejudices about the elderly, So that they do not leave us locked in a feeling of shame towards ourselves.