Getting older men to go to the doctor is important. Loved ones should focus on motivating men to be active, self-reliant, and socially connected.
Dr. Derek M. Griffith
Director, Center for Men’s Health Equity, Co-Director of the Racial Justice Institute, and Professor of Health Management and Policy at Georgetown University and Chair of Global Action on Men’s Health
“While it is common to try to motivate aging men by shaming, guilting, and chastising them, it may be worth trying to motivate with “’carrots rather than sticks.’”
If you ask a man if he is healthy or doing well, his answer will not typically reflect his number of medical diagnoses or medications. He will answer based on how he feels, if he feels he has purpose, if his physical or mental health is limiting what he can do, and if he can do things that are important to him for himself or his family.
Our prior research shows that men often use their younger selves to measure what they consider healthy. Aging men aspire to do things physically that they want to do, and to live the quality of life they have grown accustomed to. We often forget to help men remember that taking medication and following lifestyle recommendations are keys to them feeling good and being able to do the things they enjoy.
Less stick, more carrot
Aging men may use battles over medication, eating, sleep, and other seemingly basic things to maintain independence and self-reliance, especially after working and other ways of feeling useful are no longer parts of their lives. While it is common to try to motivate aging men by shaming, guilting, and chastising them, it may be worth trying to motivate with “carrots rather than sticks.”
Ask and observe what things are important to aging men. Help connect their goals and ways of defining health to what they eat, if they take their medication, if they exercise, and other ways of caring for themselves. You may be surprised to learn that you get less resistance and more agreement if you try to understand how men think about their priorities and goals, and where health and health-promoting behaviors fit into that picture.