But is slowing down linked to natural ageing or to the views we hold as a society?
A report published recently by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found almost a third (30%) of the public believe that “being lonely is just something that happens when people get old”, while a quarter of 18-34-year-olds believe it is “normal” for older people to be unhappy and depressed. Two in five (40%) 18-24-year-olds believe there is no way to escape dementia as you age, while nearly one in four (24%) millennials think “older people can never really be thought of as attractive.”
RSPH’s research identified a wide range of ageist attitudes but noted that survey respondents viewed getting older most negatively of all when thinking about three things in particular: participation in activities, memory loss and appearance.
Ageist attitudes harm older people as they lead to discrimination, which can promote social exclusion, affect employment opportunities, and have a huge impact on both physical and mental health.
A big concern is that as people grow older, many start to apply negative age stereotypes to themselves. As this happens, they begin to believe that they really are too old to participate in activities, become withdrawn and inactive, and soon start to suffer physical and mental health problems as a result. The RSPH study notes that previous research has shown that those with a more negative attitude to ageing live on average 7.5 years less than those with more positive attitudes.
As an instructor, you’ll understand that there are many ways in which group exercise can combat loneliness. Bonding with a group helps people get motivated and meet their fitness goals, and social influence really does play a key role in motivating participants. Never underestimate the power of group exercise.