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How Did Fear of Flying Become Fear of Falling?

Posted on January 18th, 2017 by Margit Novack
From www.movingsolutions.com | info@movingsolutions.com | 610-853-4300


We had a wintry mix last week, and as I put on my boots, I thought, “I don’t want to fall.” “You sound old,” I said to myself. And then I thought, “Why does not wanting to fall make me old? I think it makes me smart.”

Risk-taking is highest in adolescents and tends to decrease as we age. Is that because older adults are more fearful, or because they are more experienced? Being cautious and prudent should make me wise, so why did I see it as “being old?” Because I am ageist.

The term “ageism” was coined in 1969 by physician/gerontologist Robert Neil Butler, who was the first Director of the National Institute on Aging. Butler defined “ageism” as:

1) Prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process,

2) Discriminatory practices toward older people, and

3)  Institutional practices and policies that perpetuate negative stereotypes about older adults.

Unlike more obvious forms of stereotyping, such as racism and sexism, ageist stereotypes are seldom corrected, so individuals grow up believing them, even as they themselves become older. Ageism is so commonplace in today’s society that we don’t even realize the stereotypes implicit in many things we say and feel.

All of this sounds theoretical, but in fact, it’s quite personal. Studies show that older adults who equate aging with becoming useless, helpless and devalued, die earlier, are less likely to seek preventive medical care, and are more likely to suffer memory loss and poor physical functioning.

When stereotypes are positive, however, when older adults view aging as a time of wisdom, self-realization and satisfaction, the opposite is true. In fact, people with positive age stereotypes live 7.5 years longer than those with negative stereotypes. That is a bigger benefit than not smoking!

So what does this mean for me? If I want to thrive as I age, I’ll need to be mindful of negative stereotypes in my thoughts, feelings and views on aging. I’ll need to change the paradigm. My boots are a good start. Being cautious about falling is not being old, it’s being wise.

5 Responses to “How Did Fear of Flying Become Fear of Falling?”

As we age in a snow and ice environment, it is a smart idea to be prepared and avoid falling. Did you know that there are ice cleats that can be attached to your shoes or boots? I just learned about them. They can be purchased online or at sports equipment stores and are called STABILicers or YakTrax.

Margo K. ZitinJanuary 21st, 2017 at 10:35 am

I joined a swimming class at our local Y. I am the oldest person in the class. At the beginning, people tried to help me in the locker room because I have a gait in my walk. As I refused, persisted in showing my independence, and showed my ability to keep up with the class, I gained acceptance as an equal. Each of us can change the stereotype of aging by our daily behavior. I am 78, and march on as if I were 45.

Elaine forwarded How Did The Fear of Flying Become The Fear of Falling over to me and I LOVE IT!!!
Great article.

Margit NovackJanuary 27th, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Thank you Kathy.

Thank you Kathleen Mazza for sharing.
I’ll look for them tomorrow for myself and my 2 daughters

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