“You haven’t aged a bit.” “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” “Young at heart.” “So when are you going to retire?” “Still skiing at your age?”

We’ve all heard, read or experienced comments like that, because American culture is grotesquely youth-centric.  The notion is that it is sad to be old, that wrinkles are embarrassing and so on.

There is ageism in the workplace, in the doctor’s office, and in the bedroom, all reinforced by pervasive myths developed throughout our lifetime.

Even The Beatles questioned aging when they sang, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me when I’m 64.”  That was in the 60s, when they – and we – were in our 20s and 30s, suggesting perhaps that there is a question about love and relationships for older people.

The well-regarded Pew Center found recently that accepted “hallmarks of aging” include obvious perceptions about gray hair, having grandchildren and being retired.  More importantly, perhaps, the research revealed a common view about us older people that includes forgetfulness, problems with bladder control and decreased sexual activity.

Before you start claiming that this “ism” is just more “woke,” the stereotype of ageism lies in the assumption that all members of the older people (elders) group are the same – too old for a certain type of car, specific haircut, type of clothing, how to speak, etc.  Not to mention too old to ski, snowboard or X-C.

Despite seeing more grey-haired and otherwise older models in commercials, there is an overwhelming and incessant daily barrage of messages of socially sanctioned prejudice.  That message is – simply – that people who are no longer fashionably young and fashionably slim  find themselves exiled to the margins of society.

Aging is perceived with weakness, forgetfulness and decline. We are afraid of aging, are in denial about aging, and many societal norms keep us blind to the many benefits of aging (and this is not referring to senior discounts offered at the movie theater or on the ski slopes).

There is research that shows that on average, those with positive perceptions about aging live eight years longer than those with negative beliefs about ageing. This is due in part to their motivation to take better care of themselves and/or their engagement with meaningful activities.  Like skiing/riding.

Negative stereotypical beliefs can impact health through psychological and behavioral pathways. They operate unconsciously and increase in power as they become more self-relevant and these beliefs are internalized within American society from childhood throughout a person’s lifespan.

Negative beliefs such as “having a senior moment” have pseudo-scientific legitimacy. Age related frailty and similar age-oriented miss-attributions can influence how we even think about ourselves and if not counteracted by positive beliefs these thoughts can impact how we feel and act.

There are no biological markers for reaching “old age”, despite the prevalence of social security, senior discounts, and retirement age.

“Elderspeak” which is using simplified language, sing-song cadence, and a louder than normal voice is not acceptable as a method for communicating with all older people. Serious mental decline is NOT a normal or inevitable part of ageing.

Aging and memory have much to do with environmental factors and how we approach and think about aging, and the way we tell ourselves how to grow old. The accepted stereotype that the brain inevitably deteriorates as we get older is false.

If you relate to statistics here are a few:

  • 75% of those over 85 years old perform everyday activities (i.e., dressing, cooking, relieving themselves) without personal assistance;
  • 90% of older folk who are not in nursing homes can think (finding their slippers, making their way) just fine;
  • Only 3% of Americans older than 65 are in nursing homes and that rate is down from 5% in the last decade while 9% of those older than 85 are in nursing homes;
  • 3.6% of those aged 65-75 in the US have dementia and those rates have been declining;
  • of 145 medical schools in the US, only five have a geriatric department and all medical schools require pediatric training compared to less than 10% that require geriatric training.

Do you think that elders are bad drivers? Statistics show that as a group we have fewer accidents, we are more likely to use seat belts, follow speed limits, are not intoxicated, don’t text while driving, and drive much less at night. Hmmm.  Sounds like seniors are smarter behind the wheel than their kids or grandkids.

If you want to know more about the slow and subtle shift away from labeling us 50+ folk as doddering idiots, check out these two books –

“Breaking the Age Code” by Dr. Becca Levy (Vermilion, 2022),  and “This Chair Rocks, A Manifesto Against Ageism” by Ashton Applewhite (Celadon Books, 2016).

They cover a litany of age-related topics ranging from sex, workplace issues, legislation to address discrimination, the longevity economy, caregiving, independence and self-reliance, retirement living, loneliness, the value of intergenerational relationships, and so much more.

Just in case you don’t already know the answer to the question of whether you’ll still need me and feed me when I’m 64 – ask me on the chairlift.


  1. William Geller says:

    Actually, people talk themselves into less active lifestyles, I constantly hear my ski, biking, and tennis friends constantly saying we did great for our age. That negative statement is not needed, just say we did a good job and think positively. The older you get and still participate gives you the experience and opportunity to learn and improve. This is not lying to yourself but as we all know attitude and confidence improve your performance and outlook. We do not have to be elite athletes but for sure we must stay fit in both our bodies and mind.

  2. Lee Hall Delfausse says:

    An inspiring article that should encourage older people to keep breaking barriers.

    For instance, after retiring from teaching American Literature for 25 years, I started writing novels about my four years on the World Cup ski team called “Snow Sanctuary” and “No Sanctuary Here.” My protagonist Lia Erickson basks in the joy of the mountains and ski racing while grappling with avalanches, traitorous teammates and predatory coaches. Her journey takes her from the Sierra mountains, to the Rockies, to the Alps of Europe.

    On my book tours, skiers, as well as non- skiers comment on the difficulties and joys of World Cup ski racing.

    Age on,


  3. I recently went on a mountain bike ride with Scot Nicol of Ibis bikes. He is my age( 68) and I asked him how long he thought we could ride and ski like we do? He looked at me and said……” Pat- don’t even think about it. Just keep doing it.” Sage advice.

    • Pat, my girlfriend is 95 years young, retired ski patroller. A beautiful skier, kayaker, hiker! She says the same thing “just do it” don’t fret. I hope I have her energy this summer for paddling, hiking & downhill skiing! She also sails! She is amazing!

    • Love it!!

  4. Cansnowplow says:

    John Lennon wrote this song for his father. This is Alfred “Freddie” Lennon’s song. I dare say, this song was written for the “Greatest Generation!” Regardless, I really believe in the cliché, you are as old as you feel.

  5. Because of dementia and diabetes-related difficulties, my mother spent the last several years of her very active life (until she died at 96) in an assisted living facility that billed itself as a “memory loss” community. One of the nurses took me aside one day to express concern that my mother was telling people that she used to drive in sports car rallies and had been a ski instructor until she was in her 70s. I didn’t even try to hide my indignation when I answered that it was true. I then went on to lecture her that if they would have a little more respect for the lives and accomplishments of their residents, instead of treating them like children, they may learn something about older people that they didn’t learn in school.

  6. MICHAEL ROTH says:

    great article Roger, we should pass that on to the younger generation.
    I agree 100% with what you wrote and before I even got to your song referral, I was thinking it!
    Myself at 79 1/2 am still driving my 2 sportscar datsun z”s, riding a big motorcycle, skiing , pickleball, racquetball ( where I was the hero with my shots yesterday!) golf , canoeing etc. no-one is going to slow me down! next year I am going to surpass the vertical of 29,000 ft. for 1 day.

  7. Peter Francis says:

    There used to be a saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me.” Particularly if I’m not listening to them. I also like to live my life rather than Instagram it, so frankly I’m too busy getting on with it to hear the negative stereotypes…skiing, paddle boarding, cycling, golfing…and don’t even get me started on how great and regular the sex is now! So while I understand that ageism exists and can be damaging, I don’t feel it because I don’t acknowledge it. Oh, and I surround myself with likeminded people who add to my life, not subtract from it.

  8. George S. Brown says:

    I admit to aging only in the sense that for a 3 day ski trip I have to do blacks on the first day, blues on the second, and greens on the third day. And there has to be one rest day between each ski day. Overused thighs do not allow enough hip sinking, therefore do not allow reliable turns. Doing 800 knee bends at home seems to have a limit on what it can enable.

    So much for being 81.

  9. Carol Dean Silverman says:

    “You don’t stop skiing because you get old. You get old because you stop skiing!”

  10. When in a hardware store yesterday buying a gallon of paint, a high-school age employee asked if I was having my house painted. No, I am painting it. His look prompted me to ask, “ at age 81 do you think I am too old? He quickly responded, no that is great.” He then offered to carry my paint to my car but then hesitated to ask if perhaps preferred to carry it myself. Had a bit of fun with him..
    My husband and I, (85 &81) plan to continue to enjoy our favorite activities – skiing, golf, biking, camping, painting our house etc until…….
    Perhaps we don’t want to anymore. Enjoyed reading your article.

  11. Our buddy Warren Miller said it best. “You’re younger than you’ll ever be again.” I repeat that all the time. It is true. Age is just a number. Take care of your body and your body will take care of you.

  12. Carol Finer says:

    I hiked my first 14er in Colorado a few years ago in my earlier 70s, with a friend in her 30s and another in his 40s. Everyone we passed was really encouraging and impressed. I continues skiing, hiking, playing pickle ball, etc., and I teach preschool now that I have retired from a long time teaching career. As someone once told me, “You have to keep moving to stay moving.”

  13. Bruce Lund says:

    I am 90 and jealous of all those people who can ski at 90 and beyond. I always thought that I would be one of them but physical conditions unfortunately have prevented me from skiing 4 years ago. In my time, I skied over 36 western mountains and numerous midwestern “hills.” I organized a group of skiers from all over the U.S. that met in SLC to ski for 10 days. We called ourselves ” the SLC Senior Ski Marauders” It no longer exists. I wrote a 70 page book, with pictures entitled” My 50 +year love affair with skiing”. Needless to say I miss skiing but atleast at 90 I am upright and cognitive.

  14. Shelley Baxter says:

    Joe Cizmaziak is still xc skiing at Mt Hood Meadows most days at age 91 even after a stroke had left one side not very operational. He was still windsurfing on the Columbia until the stroke last year.

  15. I would also recommend Daniel Levitin’s Successful Aging.

  16. Words of wisdom and encouragement. Thank u!

  17. Tony Natella says:

    Good articles, all of them.
    I relate to the 90 year old who can’t ski any longer.
    I share numerous health limitations as well.
    I plan to ski next year after working myself back to decent fitness this year.
    Nothing is better than a day of skiing!
    God bless all skiers and non skiers.

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