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Don’t worry about getting older, it’ll happen anyway

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Entering my 20s has engulfed me in anxiety. It feels like there’s an existential crisis happening every other day, but getting older shouldn’t cause this much emotional turmoil.

The world has stigmatized aging, and America in particular perpetuates this stigma. It makes sense — getting old isn’t exactly appealing. Turning 30 can feel like the end of the youthful and carefree energy of your 20s, turning 40 feels as if you have no more room for failure, and turning 50+ feels like a death sentence. Aging is scary, and there must be an effort to destigmatize it — if not, the time spent chasing a mythical fountain of youth will engulf the enjoyment of the present.

The concept of aging was created by a capitalistic system that values a young workforce, hence, people reaching their 30s will fear that they will no longer be valuable to society. Many people, myself included, fail to realize that although aging is scary, it shouldn’t be looked down upon. Aging is a privilege that not everyone can afford. 

To examine this topic it must first be determined why people are scared of aging in the first place. One theory is that ageism plays a significant factor in why each generation has feared aging. In terms of being viewed as equal, the lack of respect the elderly face is a part of the reason why people fear getting older; however, it is important to note that this is generally a part of American culture. In America, it has been reported that 60% of those above the age of 60 are not viewed with respect. The current generation sees what is in store for them and believes that there is no glory in getting older. 

Nursing homes are a perfect example of how the role of ageism is highlighted in American society. To elders, it appears that their children no longer want to take care of them, andsomeone’s grandma or grandpa now feels like a burden on their family. In addition, it is reported that up to 60% of nursing home patients get no regular visitors. On the other hand, sending a parent or a grandparent to a nursing home to be taken care of by strangers is something that is looked down upon in Asian countries like India or China. The fate of isolation is frightening, and society will do whatever it can to avoid it.

While isolation is a valid concern, there’s no need for individuals to become distraught over the prospect of aging. Aging is an inevitable aspect of life for those fortunate enough to grow old, and worrying about it won’t prevent its occurrence.

Once people reach age 50 it’s been discovered that the stress of aging begins to fade, and people begin to wish they had enjoyed their youth instead of stressing about  the future. It is easy to tell people to enjoy the present, however; what’s much harder is ignoring the signs of aging. 

This fear  is manufactured due to America’s capitalist society as many feel that their physical abilities are equated to their worth in society. In particular, there is a sense that having a well-paying job will equate to having value in life. In many cases, a candidate who is 30 years old is more likely to get hired than a candidate who is 50 years old. Thus, in order to keep the feeling of relevancy, candidates will attempt to resist the aging process because they believe that working at a youthful production level will get them hired. Being and looking younger can be  beneficial, but this is a phenomenon that must be deconstructed. There must be an understanding that being older does not affect hireability in a non-capitalistic culture, and that a fight against capitalism must happen for a normalization of aging to happen.

As capitalism creates its own problems, it also creates its own solutions. Not only does being old scare people, but looking old can be even more frightening to some people. One’s looks can be used as currency in society, and looking young is often a more valuable tool when attempting to gain relevance in society. More particularly, it is hard to ignore the anti-aging agenda that cosmetic, grooming, diet, fitness and even plastic surgery companies advertise. Although both men and women are targeted, these companies more aggressively  target women.

Society has determined that a woman will become more invisible the older she gets due to the value placed on a woman’s beauty which is correlated with age. However, the stigma around looking old needs to fade into obscurity. The reason why looking old is despised is inorganic, created by companies to sell a product. In the cosmetic industry, dermatologists say that a lot of these products are a scam and don’t work. These companies fail to back up their claims of “de-aging” people and can even cause more harm to the skin than good. Thus, these advertisements that promote “looking younger” aren’t actually attempting to make a product that de-ages people. This is because they don’t really care about whether or not a woman looks old or not, they are simply attempting to make money based off of a self-created fear that shouldn’t be stigmatized.

Life only happens once, and it is more than anyone could ask for. The aging process can offer more lessons learned about identity, life and more. This wisdom that old people are often associated with might fully be understood as young people grow older themselves. The obsession with this metaphorical fountain of youth is forever in the rear view mirror as humanity drives toward death. It is clear that capitalism has created a negative stigma around aging, but aging is a privilege and it must be cherished.

Hunter Ung is a 2023-2024 Staff Writer. He can be reached at unghh@uci.edu.

Edited by Jacob Ramos, Annabelle Aguirre, Lillian Dunn.