In a Huffington Post opinion piece, “Old is the New Vogue,” Merritt Juliano makes a good case against the scourge of invisibility among older people – women in particular – and its ill effects on health, well-being and longevity.
Briefly: Invisibility isolates us, makes us anxious and depressed. “Worldwide, approximately 15% of the elderly population live with a mental disorder,” Juliano points out. Feeling invisible also makes us feel unattractive, which diminishes us. And — although she doesn’t say it — that’s isolating, too. Who wants to go out and hang with the beautiful people when we’re feeling unbeautiful. Research tells us that isolation kills, but, she says, “loneliness and isolation can be mitigated…by revising our cultural perceptions of aging.”
A psychotherapist and social worker, Juliano gets it pretty much right.
And then she asks, how can America help build resilience among its older citizens to help them guard against the mental illness that comes from invisibility and isolation?
Her response: Make older people more visible by increasing our presence — in the workplace (yes, experience counts), in fashion and beauty magazines (not retouched), in movies and TV. And by creating space for fashions “that celebrate age as beauty.” Sounds like a great start.
“Older adults have much more to contribute to our society. For starters, they have an enormous store of wisdom from a lifetime of experience in the world.”
There’s the point. As a young advocate for aging as beauty, Juliano wants to save us. But we have much more to contribute than to wait for ad agencies and film producers and magazine editors and even smart young advocates to start recognizing us.
We have power, too. What can we do? A few ideas:
- If we’re into stylish, let’s super-style. Be intensely stylish. Intense is never invisible — just look at the Advanced Style crew and the Fabulous Fashionistas. They’ve done more for visibility than ten Lady Dowagers.
- Be creative. Write a novel, make art, make theater, a film… and promote it. Promote it all over Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest. Social media is our invisibility buster, and if you don’t know the art of social media, then find someone else to do it — just like a politician. Look at Liam Gallagher
- Have our say. Crochety? Whatever – if you disagree with something you read online, make a noise in the comments section and make sure you say how old you are. Answer people’s questions on sites like Quora, and especially questions about old people (those questions are plentiful). Just look at Cyndi Perlman Fink
- Go out and hang with the beautiful people. It’s easy to feel pushed out from the crowd —some of that’s our own overdeveloped radar. We worry about feeling out of place, rejected, crushed by invisibility (literally). Take the risk. Go listen to live music in a venue that’s not 75 percent over 60. Check out some daring theater or dance performances where the crowd is 95 percent under 40. It might not be great, but you’ll be seen, and your adventurousness noted.
- Got a dream? Go after it. Retired occupational therapist Barbara Beskind wanted to help design products for older people so she wrote to the world’s most visible design firm and asked for a job. Now, as a nonagenarian star employee, she’s far from invisible — she’s all over the Internet.
We don’t have to become sky divers to be more visible. We don’t have to be style icons or TV personalities or movie stars. We can be who we are at our age and move boldly through our world, claiming our place alongside people of all ages.
Juliano says “Old is the New Vogue.” Let’s own it.
Add to our ideas for battling invisibility – share in the comments section below.