This week I have been confronted by fish. In addition to this quote by Albert Einstein, as I was reading a chapter from the book by Ellen Langer, “Counter Clockwise – Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility”, a fish jumped out at me there too. Her research with people as they age reveals how our perceptions of ourselves and others are strongly influenced by stereotypes we have around aging. Our mindless tendency to see aging as decay vs. change, not only limits possibilities for the elderly, but for ourselves as we age as well.
Back to the fish… “Fish can’t ride bicycles, therefore, by the criteria established by bicycle riders, fish seem less competent. …it seems obvious to us that considering their inability to ride a bicycle to be a deficit in fish is ridiculous-the utility of a bicycle should not be judged by its ability to be used by a fish, and the utility of a fish should not be judged by its ability to use an apparatus that was designed for organisms with two arms, two legs and well-defined bottoms.” We are so quick to assume decline in an older adult if they struggle to get out of a car. But what would happen if we shift that to see that the car just isn’t well adapted to the changes that occur as we age? (I keep wondering when some group of older adults is going to rise up and say, “Hey! We need you to design environments that meet our new reality, not just force us to fit into what works for you at your age!)
Our blindspots with this are vast, and likely a function of our inability to see past our own levels of development.
- How do we set our expectations? Have you given much thought to that?
- How do we help others to see themselves, not through someone else’s lens, but through their own?
- Do we remind ourselves to do the same?