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July 8, 2024

Age is Just a Number: How Conditioning Shapes Our Beliefs About Aging

BY Marc Mathys
Aging is a natural part of life, yet our perceptions of it are anything but natural. From a young age, we are bombarded with messages about what it means to get older—many of which are far from positive. These messages shape our beliefs and attitudes about aging, often leading to a fear of growing older and misconceptions about what it entails. 
The Early Conditioning 
The conditioning starts early. Fairy tales often depict the old as either wise and benevolent or evil and decrepit, creating a dichotomy that leaves little room for a nuanced understanding of aging. As children, we internalize these narratives, associating youth with beauty, vitality, and potential, while viewing old age as a period of decline and loss. 
Media and Cultural Influences 
As we grow older, media and cultural influences further cement these beliefs. Advertisements for anti-aging products flood our screens, reinforcing the idea that aging is something to be battled rather than embraced. Television shows and movies often portray older characters as out of touch, frail, or irrelevant, perpetuating stereotypes that contribute to ageism. In many cultures, there is a pervasive fear of aging. Terms like “over the hill” and “past your prime” reflect societal attitudes that equate aging with obsolescence. This cultural conditioning creates a sense of urgency to achieve certain milestones by a specific age, leading to anxiety and stress when life doesn’t follow a linear path. 
The Impact on Self-Perception 
These conditioned beliefs about age significantly impact our self-perception and behavior. Studies have shown that negative attitudes toward aging can lead to poorer physical and mental health outcomes. When we internalize ageist beliefs, we are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and even cognitive decline. 
Conversely, those with a positive outlook on aging tend to live longer, healthier lives. They view aging as a period of growth and opportunity, rather than a time of inevitable decline. This positive mindset can lead to better physical health, increased social engagement, and a higher quality of life.
 

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Hello I’m Marc the creator of the Reset-it program and a TedX speaker.

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