It’s not always easy to maintain our self-esteem when life is constantly throwing us curve balls. Getting older and all the life changes that come with it can certainly challenge our confidence. Add to that the ageism that exists in our society, it’s no wonder many seniors struggle with self-esteem issues.
Take for example our use of the word “anti-aging,” which is prevalent in the cosmetics and beauty industries. Fortunately, the negative terminology and messaging is beginning to change, as publications such as Allure magazine ban the term. However, the damage, in many cases, has already been done. We’ve been taught to dread aging rather than embrace it as a natural part of life, a milestone we should be proud of having reached.
Instead, studies show that self-esteem often peaks at age 65 then begins to decline. This is thought to be attributed to the changes seniors experience, such as an empty nest, retirement, lack of purpose-driven work, the death of a spouse or friends, the loss of independence, and declining health. All of these losses can seriously impact our self-esteem later in life. This is important because low self-esteem can impact our physical health, mental health, and overall quality of life.
One worrisome health impact of low self-esteem is the fact that it contributes to higher cortisol levels. Often called the “stress hormone,” cortisol is naturally released when we’re stressed. However, it can become problematic when it builds up in the bloodstream, as it can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, compromised immune function, and memory issues. Because older adults are already more susceptible to illness, low self-esteem can also put them at risk for chronic health issues.
Fortunately, there are ways to turn the tide and build their confidence. Here are some ways to boost self-esteem:
In our youth-centered cultured, we often forget that seniors have something invaluable to share: their experience. Ask questions and engage in an open dialogue about anything and everything. You may just learn something you didn’t know about your loved one. Also, be sure to ask their opinions on current affairs and especially on decisions that impact them directly. Knowing their viewpoint matters is priceless.
Thanks to technology, there is no reason we can’t all stay more connected despite the miles between us. Zoom, Facetime, Google, and Skype can all be used to video chat with family. Teach your loved one how to use these services and share with them a sense of belonging.
There is a reason seniors who lead active and busy lives are less likely to experience self-esteem issues. It’s because they have a sense of purpose. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to explore at The Providence, such as a sunrise yoga class, a painting class in our art studio, or learning a new language through Watermark University.
Despite the prevalence of ageism in our society, there are many, like Ashton Applewhite, who are working to end the stigma associated with growing older. From confronting the unconscious bias we all have to recognizing the messages we absorb everyday about aging, there is much we can do to help our loved ones embrace this exciting chapter of life.
July 12, 2021