Dr. Roger Landry

Dr. Roger Landry

In a recent article published in The Atlantic, “Battling Ageism With Subliminal Messages,” Cari Romm cites the research of Becca Levy, the director of social and behavioral sciences at the Yale School of Public Health. Levy, who has spent much of her career studying how cultural perceptions of aging affect the health of our older adults, discovered that those with an optimistic view of aging lived an average of 7 ½ years longer than those with a pessimistic view, and they had a greater sense of self-esteem. She also learned that people with a positive outlook about their ability to bounce back from injury or illness were more likely to make a full recovery.

What was most surprising; however, was the impact of implicit (or subliminal) messaging on a participant’s view of aging. When people were exposed to positive words flashing across a screen (such as “wise” or “spry”), they demonstrated a more positive perception of aging, even though the words were moving too quickly to be perceived at a conscious level.

“When people are given messages in a very explicit way, sometimes it’s easy to resist them or just discard them as not being valid or relevant,” Levy explained. “One of the thoughts behind why these implicit messages might work is that they might be able to bypass some of the negatives, the ageism that people have taken in over time.”

This week, I’d ask you to consider: What messaging are you using to create a culture of successful aging? Furthermore, What messages are you subjecting yourself to about aging? For example, do you frequently watch shows that depict older adults as victims? Do your friends repeatedly make negative age-related comments about you or themselves? We are responsible for creating our own environment, correcting people who are perpetuating these stereotypes and surrounding ourselves with people who believe we can grow. Live long; live well!

(Reprinted with permission of Masterpiece Living (MPL). Originally published in MPL’s bi-weekly “Fireside Conversations.”)

By Dr. Roger Landry

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