\u201cI know I\u2019m going to get older. I can handle that, and I even know that I am going to die. What bothers me the most, though, is the thought of becoming irrelevant.\u201d This statement was made by a 69 year old man who is a member of my consciousness raising group. Old people are becoming less and less a minority in our country. Quite to the contrary; today, approximately 18 per cent of people living in the United States are 60 years old and older. By 2050, people over 60 will make up over 25 per cent of the population\u2026hardly a small minority.\u00a0 When we marginalize a group of people, we are pushing them to the edge of humanity and according them lesser importance.\u00a0 Their needs and desires are then ignored.\u00a0 When ageism is in action, this is exactly what happens. Ageist language and media portrayals of old people encourage this marginalization. Ageism can be very subtle, or as one of my colleagues describes it, \u201cslow-drip\u201d oppression.\u00a0 It creeps up on us, sometimes without our ever knowing we are being oppressed until we find ourselves in the outer margins of society. Nobody wants to be pushed to the edge of society.\u00a0 Yet, older adults teeter on this edge\u2026always dancing on the line between inclusion and exclusion. \u00a0In today\u2019s society pride in age is hard to find.\u00a0 It\u2019s no wonder that older people often hide their true age.\u00a0 Stop for a moment, and ask yourself, \u201cwhy?\u201d Many of us tend to think of this practice as vanity, but consider that the true answer may be fear\u2026fear of becoming irrelevant.\u00a0 So, what do we do?\u00a0 We drink the \u201cKool-Aid\u201d dispersed by the media and the anti-aging industry; the message is, If you don\u2019t look young enough, you too will be marginalized.\u00a0 Not only is the advertising deceptive, it is detrimental to our overall health. Not wanting to be relegated to the outer margins, we support the anti-ageing industrial complex, spending hard-earned money on anti-aging products, medical and non-medical procedures, and cosmetic or plastic surgery.\u00a0 When we do this, are we just satisfying our own vanity or are we hoping to buy a few more years of relevancy? The dance of marginality seems to start younger and younger these days, with people in their forties and some even in their thirties seeking out a magic bullet that will make them seem to appear younger than their true age.\u00a0 For those of us who are older, however, one day you are a vital contributing member of society and only a few wrinkles later, you are dancing on the margins again, trying to figure out how to get back to the other side before you are turned into a trivial appendage, maybe even a burden, to the current social order. Ageism in itself can cause a more rapid decline of our physical and mental health as we edge\u00a0 closer to the end of our lives.\u00a0 Researchers have proven that older people who are constantly subjected to negative stereotypes of their age cohort often internalize these messages.\u00a0 As a result of this internalized ageism, their own self esteem is affected; and this leads to both physical and mental health issues.\u00a0 In addition, recent research has shown that those who accept their age and feel the wonderful combination of beauty and wisdom in their own selves are mentally and physically healthier than those who feel the pressure of having to conceal their true age.\u00a0 Many of us just keep on dancing. Who is doing all this dancing?\u00a0 First and foremost are the \u201cinvisibles.\u201d\u00a0 The \u201cinvisibles\u201d are healthy people between the ages of 60 and 80 who are not ready to \u201cretire\u201d in the way that traditional retirement has been socially constructed.\u00a0 This cohort is the most skillful at the dance of marginality; they get in a lot of rehearsal time.\u00a0 They know that if they don\u2019t enter the dance contest, they will automatically lose. And, they can lose a lot.\u00a0 Mostly, they can lose their financial security and, with that, their dignity. You may have noticed that the age of the traditional concept of old has been pushed back quite a bit, with people living 10, 15, and some even 20 years longer than previous generations. In many ways the invisibles are in the prime of their lives.\u00a0 Yet, they are constantly maneuvering to remain inclusive members of society. Most catastrophic is the cold shoulder they bear from American workforce.\u00a0 If they are not still in their career jobs, they find themselves traveling a road that leads them closer and closer to the margins of society. A lovely 85 year old woman came to visit me in my office one day.\u00a0 She was carrying a rather large umbrella.\u00a0 \u201cIs it raining?,\u201d I asked.\u00a0 \u201cNo,\u201d she replied; I just refuse to be seen using a cane.\u201d\u00a0 Even at 85, she is still dancing.\u00a0 To appear completely autonomous is her goal.\u00a0 Afraid to admit that she may need some help, she struggles to keep up the appearance for fear that she will not be perceived as the smart woman she is. The way our society is constructed, it takes more courage to ask for help than it does to manage on our own regardless of the consequences. It is the American way, to \u201cpull yourself up by your bootstraps\u201d and rely only on yourself to get where you\u2019re going. \u00a0Another octogenarian told me \u201cif I show the slightest sign of\u00a0 not being able to live independently, my children will whisk me into the nearest assisted living facility.\u201d\u00a0 She knows this, and so she dare not let her age show.\u00a0 She, too, keeps on dancing. Fear seems to be the main reason why so many of us are caught up in this dance of marginality. There are other times and other places where older adults have been embraced by society.\u00a0 For so many, this is no longer true.\u00a0 Old people are often segregated, put aside, or discarded completely. They are often treated as if they are diseased. We need to start changing the way we view and interact with the older adults around us. Old age is not contagious. The ageing process, including the end of life, is part of the course of the lifespan.\u00a0 Ageing is not a disease to be treated; it is a gift to be accepted.\u00a0 It is an accomplishment to be proud of.\u00a0 Older adults should not feel as though they have to \u201csing for their dinner,\u201d nor should any of us have to \u201cdance for our dignity".