As you get up in years, you may have difficulty coping with the idea. If so, your notion of what masculinity is could be to blame. Dana Wechsler Linden, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, has published an article about the potential reasons men have such a hard time aging.
Linden opens the article with a gripping report about current research on the aging process. Sociologists and psychologists have found that the traditional model of masculinity offers little support for how older men should behave later in their lives. Because of this, several non-profit organizations like Men’s Health Network and the National Black Men’s Health Network have begun campaigns for educating aging men.
These campaigns are meant to dispel the following beliefs that can make aging more difficult:
Men should be physically strong
Linden got in touch with Michael Addis, a psychologist from Clark University, about this. “A man’s body is expected to be a performative machine… it is not supposed to break down,” Addis says. Yet, when you age, that break down is inevitable. Beating yourself up over losing muscular strength, however, is only going to worsen the stress you feel over aging. Addis observes that men can continue to be extremely fit well into the 70s, as long as you maintain an adequate exercise and diet plan.
Men should be risk takers
As the body gets older, it lacks the same healing powers it used to have. In short, while younger men will display their toughness with random acts of courage (or poor judgement), “risk taking becomes downright reckless in older men,” says Linden. Although you may want to remain strong and independent, it becomes necessary to display your strength through maturity and responsibility. Linden suggests reducing risky behavior by focusing on those who depend on you not getting hurt.
Men need to work
“For older men [work] was the one masculine space if you needed respect,” states another expert, Dr. Thompson. Work is where you get to compete with others as well as yourself. Aging and retirement, however, can be stressful, because you lose that status and influence on others. However, Thompson suggests ways to find relief: encore careers or volunteer work.
Men should never show emotions
A published study in the 2011 Journal of Health and Social Behavior found that 65 year old men who had strong masculinity beliefs were less likely to seek preventative care than those with moderate masculinity beliefs. But it is healthier to be proactive and protect your health.
Read the full article: “Why Men Have Such a Hard Time Aging.” Follow the Men’s Health Network on Twitter @MensHlthNetwork.