If you want to embrace the upside of long life here are a few helpful tips on where you can begin: Push back against ageist assumptions. One of the things that drives me up a wall is when people learn how old I am and tell me, “Wow, you look so good for your age!” I know they mean well, but it reveals their own internalized ageism that tries to tell them that older people are not supposed to be attractive. When I spoke to Ashton Applewhite, she shared a comeback line I love: “Thanks! You look great for your age, too!” We have to—playfully—call out each others’ ageist assumptions; it’s the only way we’ll start to challenge them and re-write the script.

If you’re a total beginner: Make friends with someone older and someone younger. A great way to share your upsides of aging with others—and to help dissolve the invisible, and ageist, dividers between the generations—is to form friendships with people of all ages. Applewhite told me, “If more younger women had older friends, they would realize how age is a source of power, self-knowledge, and confidence. They would be less afraid of getting older, and they would realize how much of our youth we squander on worrying about this shit.”

This will require some effort as it goes against the tide—research shows that age segregation is as pervasive as racial segregation. And ageism is at play here—young people dismiss older people, while older people can also judge younger adults. Older adults can also definitely judge themselves, believing that younger people don’t want to talk to them simply because of their age. Put that positivity affect and rising self-confidence to use—and stop telling yourself that someone is too old or too young to become friends with—and open yourself up to intergenerational friendships.

If you’re already embracing the upside of aging and are ready to take it to the next level: Become a mentern. Finding ways to share your accumulated knowledge helps you give back and find your own sense of purpose. You’ll also probably develop some intergenerational relationships while you’re at it, while also keeping yourself exposed to new ideas. If being a mentor holds appeal for you, there are numerous organizations that help you plug in and give back in a meaningful way to people who are significantly younger than you. They include Marc Freedman’s CoGenerate, which seeks to bridge the age divide and bring multiple generations together to solve the world’s problems (cogenerate.org); Eldera, which matches older adults with children to mentor; the Experience Corps, which trains volunteers who are 50+ to tutor kids in public elementary schools (aarp.com/experience-corps); Big and Mini, which matches older adults with younger adults to bridge the generational divide (bigandmini.org); Hey Auntie (heyauntie.io), which connects older women of color with their younger counterparts (heyauntie.io); and SCORE, a network of volunteer business mentors who help fledgling entrepreneurs (score.org). 

Raise your awareness of your own ageism…and those around you. We can’t challenge bias unless we’re aware of it, and most bias is unconscious. To raise awareness of your own ageist thoughts, start looking at your own use of the words ‘old’ and ‘young,’ and whether you talk about older adults as ‘them’ or ‘us.’

To take it a step further, talk to friends and family members about your collective experiences with ageism—both external and internal. When you talk to other women about your experiences, you realize, ‘Oh, these are not just my personal problems—these are widely shared political and social problems that we can come together and do something about.’ That not only can inspire and empower you, but also, these conversations are how we start to change cultural assumptions about getting older, too.

Host a “Generations Over Dinner”. Chip Conley’s Modern Elder Academy has launched a program to foster age-spanning friendships. It’s called Generations Over Dinner, which guides individuals on how to gather a group of people of different generations, and also provides a series of thought-provoking questions to answer to help foster communication and connection. “What we hear over and over again from people who have organized these dinners is, ‘Wow, that was life-changing,’” Conley told me. You can find more information and get started forming your own group—or joining one that already exists near you—at GenerationsOverDinner.com.

Listen to music “the kids” are listening to. It’s a stereotype that each generation hates—or just doesn’t understand—the music of the younger generations, and that we tend to keep listening to the same artists we discovered in our teens and 20s for the rest of our lives. An analysis of listening habits of users of the streaming platform Spotify have found that after age 33, we tend to stop listening to new (as in, recently produced) music. Research shows that there is a link between listening to new music and open-mindedness—it helps establish new neural pathways as you become familiar with the different rhythms and chord progressions. “New music listening activates areas of the brain from root to tip, from the early auditory processing centers to the outer reaches of our cortex,” says Victoria Williamson, music psychology professor and author of You Are the Music. Because listening to new music styles is so stimulating to the brain, and pop music is such a great shared cultural reference, make it a point to listen to music that is currently popular. It’s a great way to expand your horizons and connect to younger people. Ask your kids or grandkids for recommendations, tune your car radio to the local pop station, or look for “new and noteworthy” playlists on your streaming platform. And don’t be quick to reject it. Try to learn what it means, why it’s popular, and with whom.

Prepare for takeoff. Actively imagine the rise in your happiness, self-confidence, and life satisfaction that will follow when you develop a more positive viewpoint on your own ageless aging. Allow yourself to be optimistic about the future and honest about your hopes and dreams, and let these ideas inspire you and help you see new possibilities. Remember that the positivity affect builds resilience, and metabolized experiences fuel you in making a plan for exactly how you will maximize your longevity bonus.

Excerpted from Ageless Aging: A Woman’s Guide to Increasing Healthspan, Brainspan, and Lifespan, Mayo Clinic Press (May 14, 2024)