How to be Masculine as You Age
Two recent articles cover the evolving nature of masculinity and why some men may have a more difficult time as they get older.
As journalist Dana Linden puts it, "Traditional thinking about masculinity can work against health. Doctors and patients are trying to change those attitudes." In her WSJ article she said, "Researchers are focusing on a factor that makes aging harder for men: having to let go of their sense of masculinity."
That sense includes things like the need to be strong and stoic, or that it’s weak to ask for help. The trouble is, such ideas are a bad fit with the realities of old age, leaving many senior men poorly equipped to handle the challenges that come with growing frailer, retiring, losing a spouse or even needing to disclose their ailments.
“I hate to say it, but the way the traditional model of masculinity was written was for boys up to the age of adulthood,” says Edward Thompson, 71, professor emeritus of sociology at the College of the Holy Cross and a leading researcher on elderly men and masculinity. “Clear models of dignified masculinity are nonexistent for later life.”
Linden goes on to cover many of the traditional ideas about masculinity, how they can affect men's health adversely, and how to redefine those tenets moving forward. For example, instead of men feeling weak by asking for help, doctors and therapists "...will encourage older male patients to pay greater attention to health care as a way to retain or regain strength or be better providers for their families." She also discusses why this new approach of encouraging men to show their emotions (to cry and to grieve) will help men be less prone to depression and other mental-health problems.
What to change for the next generation of young men?
Authors for Quartz online encourage men to identify role models from a young age in their article, What does it mean to be a good man? Redefining masculinity in the age of Donald Trump. They recommend a focus on courage and integrity and figuring out how to be of service. "This approach is not about furthering your personal ambitions; it is about learning to put others before yourself."
Their overall recommendations will help the next generation redefine masculinity by becoming "beacons of a powerful, courageous, and unwavering compassion. This can be the historical moment when antiquated, aggressive ideas of masculinity are finally laid to rest, and boys in America grow up knowing that kindness is the greatest possible demonstration of strength."