Get used to it - we all age

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - New research shows that older people are consistently marginalized across many areas of life, from employment and civic life to recreation and housing.

The reality is, Americans are living longer than previous generations so we're likely going to be dealing with more older people, not less. And there are a lot of misperceptions when it comes to growing older.

When people are asked about what aging looks like to them, they'll answer that they expect to see "changing in your looks, getting gray hair" and "being small, gray, and fragile."

But aging isn't limited to old people. It includes everyone past adolescence. And how we think about aging will influence how we experience it. Leacey Brown is a Gerontology Field Specialist with SDSU Extension and she says that there is a misperception that aging is an inevitable circle of decline.

"There's this misperception that there's nothing we can do about it so we might as well act old, be old, do old," says Brown.

She has made it her mission to help people rethink what it means to age. For example, who says 65 is when you check out of the work force? That's the age in the original Social Security Act passed in 1935 when the average life span was 61. Today the average life span is 78.

"We're trying to figure out a modern understanding of what it means to be an older person when we're basing everything we know about aging from the 20th century... from the past," says Brown.

And she says making a plan now will help avoid difficulties later on.

"I commonly hear people say ' I do not want to go to a nursing home'...but they haven't remodeled their house, they haven't investigated home health care, they havent figured out who's going to mow the lawn, who's gonna shovel the snow...those things that we tend to take care of ourselves, and then something happens, typically a fall, and they are in that care setting that that they did not want to be in."

A good first step to taking control of how we age, according to Brown, is to create a vision of who you want to be...look for those role models that inspire you.

Also be mindful of whether the things you are doing right now are going to get you to that older person that you want to be.

If you'd like to learn more about aging, there is an Aging Gracefully Expo this Saturday at the Rapid City Holiday Inn starting at 10 a-m. You can find more information about it at http://igrow.org/events/2018-aging-gracefully-expo-rapid-city