Challenging The Status Quo: Aging Matters

By Linda Burton and Jane Paccione

SAN ANTONIO – Successfully Aging and Living in San Antonio (SALSA) was created by the San Antonio Area Foundation to increase leadership, collaboration and funding to ensure older adults have access to needed services, information and support systems. 

Jane Paccione oversees SALSA as Managing Director of Collective Impact

Among its many projects and efforts, SALSA has a Reframing Aging (RA) workgroup focused on actively campaigning for all of us to see and think aging in a different light, particularly in terms of countering commonly held stereotypes.  The RA workgroup recently reviewed the landmark new book from Becca LevyBreaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs About Aging Determine How Long and Well You Live.

Levy, one of the world’s leading experts and pioneers in the field of aging, explained in her revolutionary book why it is critical that we reframe our beliefs about older adults. We are constantly flooded with negative messages and stereotypes about getting older, such as being slow, frail and having cognitive decline. There are ubiquitous false age stereotypes of older workers being ineffective in the workplace. According to Levy, these tropes affect our health and impact our lives as we age. 

Breaking The Age Code uses stunning revelations from Levy’s research challenging outdated narratives and debunking harmful myths about aging. Levy concluded that, in fact, older workers tend to take fewer sick days, have a strong work ethic and are often innovative. Teams that include older persons have been found to be more effective than teams that do not. 

Levy found that older adults often work or volunteer in positions that allow them to make meaningful contributions to society. They are the demographic group that is most likely to recycle and make philanthropic gifts. Older persons often engage in legacy thinking, which involves wanting to create – and leave – a better world for future generations.

Levy began her longevity research in 2002, when she began tracking hundreds of older residents. Her study found that older adults with the most positive beliefs about aging lived an additional seven and a half years longer compared to those who had more negative attitudes. 

Her research also found that a positive attitude towards aging can influence a person’s medical, mental, and spiritual outlook. The book offers the reader a blueprint towards developing a more positive attitude towards aging. Even more exciting is that not only is Breaking the Age Code a landmark work for how we can take control over aging, but also about how we can rethink and redesign our society to better combat ageism, the systematic stereotyping and discrimination of people solely based on their age. 

One fact that cannot be disputed is that we are all aging! SALSA is dedicated to a community where older adults are respected, thrive, and enjoy connected lives.  If you are inspired to have an age-friendly San Antonio, join our movement and find out more as we change the narrative about aging and combat ageism in our community.  

Linda Burton is a retired executive with more than 40 years of experience in broadcasting, business development, marketing and healthcare. She’s a SALSA volunteer.

Jane Paccione oversees SALSA as Managing Director of Collective Impact at the San Antonio Area Foundation and is passionate about inclusive communities. She can be reached at jpaccione@saafdn.org.