If We Caved to Ageism

Collectively we fear aging. So much so, that in recent months a push to talk about ageism has sprung up faster than weeds in the field. Ageism is now in discussion at all ends of the spectrum, and the negative impact of ageism struck me this morning more than it usually does. 

18 years ago this October, my grandfather passed away after suffering a massive stroke in December of 1998. By so many individuals’ accounts, he was no longer a productive or full human being after that stroke. Many have such a limited view of what a productive and full life looks like in today’s world. If my grandfather had not lived past 1998, here is what my family would have lost: 

  1. The chance to serve and love another in new ways.
  2. The chance to further develop memories of times with our Poppa/Dad/Father-in-Law/Husband.
  3. The chance to make him laugh and finding joy and purpose in that simple moment.
  4. The chance to see what it truly means to sacrifice for another.

How can you tell me that was not a full productive life?

If my grandfather had not lived past 1998, we would have also lost my grandmother. Her dementia symptoms from what we know would have shown themselves much sooner, and her decline leading to the loss of what was 14 more abundant years filled with care, love, and relationship. 

16 years ago today, my grandmother was diagnosed with Vascular Dementia. If we as a family took the ever-popular idea that she was no longer Grandma, Mom, Mother-in-Law and stripped her of her purpose, value, removed her from her home, and placed her in a locked memory wing right at the start, we would not have only been cruel, we would have also lost:

  1. The years of laughter and stories that were shared because dementia had lifted the veil.
  2. We would not have known sacrificial love.
  3. Our own faith in God would not have grown as strong as we witnessed her faith shine bright until the end.
  4. Part of our family history would have been lost to the ages. 
  5. We would have lost out on several years as a family since Grandma was the only glue holding the extended family together. 
  6. I would not be the professional I am today, working in dementia. I would be 1-dimensional, textbook, and complacent.  

Had my family not ignored the ageism of our time, we would be a family deficient in great and many things. As I see others recognizing the value of life, even in old age and in failing health, I am excited for what they will discover. The connections they will make with loved ones and friends, the joys and laughter that will fill their homes, and the giant step forward to releasing the world of ageism at both ends of the spectrum.  

Published by Kathryne Fassbender

Creative Gerontologist, Speaker, Catholic Innovator. I am also the granddaughter of someone who lived with Vascular Dementia.

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