Ending Ageism

Rabbi Susan Elkodsi

While standing in an interminable line waiting to register for the World Scout Jamboree, I sat down on the curb. Let’s just say that standing up again was a challenge. Someone standing near me said, “I bet you used to be able to just spring back up!”. My first thought was to agree that I was “getting old,” but I stopped, and truthfully replied, “Actually, I’ve never been able to spring back up.”

After watching a TED Talk by Ashton Applewhite called “Let’s End Ageism,” I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to buy into myths about aging, and I’ve stopped sharing the funny cartoons and comments about aging that come through my Facebook feed. I no longer have “senior moments,” because like Applewhite, I’ve been misplacing my keys since I was old enough to have a set! Self-deprecating humor has its place; it can help diffuse tension, and it’s something we can often identify with. However, there’s a fine line between laughing at one’s self and perpetuating damaging myths.

There’s no question that ageism is discrimination, and it’s the last remaining acceptable form of discrimination, largely because we “aging” individuals not only buy into it, we perpetuate it by trying to look and act younger, by commiserating with others, and by willingly spending our hard-earned dollars on things that promise to help us find the proverbial Fountain of Youth.

In our quest to “turn back the clock,” to fight and eliminate visible signs of aging, and to ultimately prolong our lives, we spend billions of dollars on anti-aging products and treatments that might have questionable benefits. Consider, for example, a post on InStyle.com last October (https://bit.ly/31ijlQY) which looked at the cost of three brands of just one type of anti-aging product – a face cream. I’ll spare you the math hear, but daily use of said cream – a “drug store” brand – cost nearly $12,000 per year! Millions of people will buy that cream and then balk at the idea of paying for a health-supporting medical treatment that isn’t covered by insurance or Medicare.

For that $12k, I could have about 200 sessions with a personal trainer helping my body and brain stay in good physical condition. I could take one heck of a vacation, learn a new skill, or take up a new hobby which would feed my soul.

In the interest of full disclosure, I color my hair, I go to the gym, and I frown when I see wrinkles and spots that I swear weren’t there yesterday. Not everything is as easy to do as it used to be, but anything that reaches the age of 60 is going to need a little work, both structural and cosmetic.

Eventually, I hope that everyone will embrace Judaism’s teachings that the elders in our society are to be respected, cherished and looked to as mentors and keepers of the past. Until then, I’m going to do my best to be a terrific 60-year old, and I challenge you to embrace your age; it’s not always easy, but a change in how we see ourselves as we age can have a profound impact on how others see us.

About Rabbi Susan Elkodsi
Susan Elkodsi is the rabbi and spiritual leader of the Malverne Jewish Center in Long Island, New York. She was ordained by the Academy for Jewish Religion, the country's first pluralistic rabbinical and cantorial seminary, in 2015, fulfilling a life-long dream. Her goal is to help Baby Boomers and older Jewish adults create meaning and purpose in their lives, in a Jewish context, but not the one they might have been traumatized in growing up. Rabbi Elkodsi recently completed a Certificate in Gerontology and Palliative Care through Yeshiva University's Wurzweiler School of Social Works, and looks forward to incorporating this new knowledge into her current work. She and her husband David have two grown children, Phillip and Jacqueline, and in her spare time enjoys knitting and spinning her own yarn.

9 Comments

  1. Very well written, I agree on the importance of embracing our age.

  2. Great article! So much of aging of how we see ourselves – our self-identity and our mindset.

  3. A very poignant story. Writing about a specific occurrence in our own life is one of the best ways to get the message across. Rabbi Elkodsi’s article accomplishes this well.

    • Thank you, Ruth, I appreciate your kind words. Turning 60 has certainly opened my eyes, heart and mind to the language we use to talk about ourselves.

  4. This is a very meaningful, well written and honest take on the struggle we all eventually experience.

  5. As a fellow sixty-someone, I agree with you! We could certainly use more respect in our world & who knows the youngsters might even learn a thing or two from us! Thanks for sharing, J Cuchel

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