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We need to feel better about ageing in order to age better

by Micaela Bartels, PR-OUD founder

‘Old’ is one of those words that will sooner or later define ourselves, whether we like it or not. In general, we prefer to ignore that fact and secretly hope that we can dodge that bullet. But here’s a simple truth: unless someone is planning on dying young he will eventually find himself being old. There is no way around it. So why is it, that we have communally decided that ‘old’ isn’t a great thing?

 This paradox has fascinated me for years. How come that every birthday people rush themselves to pay me a compliment by assuring me that I look much younger than my years. Why is that? Because a wrinkle free face is by definition more beautiful than a wrinkly one? What about character? What about sparkly eyes behind reading glasses that reveal a fulfilled life?

In general, we tend to associate ‘being old’ with deterioration and decline; being less pretty or important, having less energy or friends, having to get used to physical aches and mental degradation, being less valuable and interesting in general. 

And even though it is true that age comes with certain challenges, the same is true for youth. Just think about a spotty complexion, unpredictable insecurities, being subjected to peer pressure, having poorer judgment due to lack of experience or being stuck in a job you don’t like.

Is one part of life really so much better than the other, or do we just simply focus too much on the positive aspects of youth while getting stuck on the negative aspects of growing old.

 Why care, you might ask?

I guess I care because as a result of the current bias, I (and everyone around me) can’t just simply grow old with pride and dignity, due to a label with negative associations, which doesn’t tell the whole story.

What people often don’t realize is that aging can be better or worse depending on the culture in which it takes place and that culture is fluid and can therefore be changed. The current focus on the negative aspects of being old, prevents a positive and inspiring approach towards one of the most valuable parts of one’s life. I think it’s high time for a change.

That’s why I’ve joined forces with photographer Sevilay Maria van Dorst. During the past year we’ve portrayed a colorful range of amazing older individuals who dare to challenge the common associations with being old and want to inspire others by sharing the values that the years have brought them. The portraits will be published in a coffee table book in the beginning of next year. But you can already take a sneak peek on our website www.pr-oud.com or via Instagram @trots_op_leeftijd. The project is originated in the Netherlands and focuses mainly on Dutch society. The topic however is universal and easily adopted in all societies where ageism plays a major role in everyday life.

What’s in a word?

OLD means OUD in Dutch. And according to us OUD is nothing to be ashamed of. Hence our title – PR:OUD. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we would learn once more to appreciate and value old human beings including ourselves? What if ‘old person’ would be used a compliment just like ‘old soul’. After all we do cherish an old bottle of wine, we marvel at the old masters or find ourselves delighted by the presence of an old friend.


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