Ageism: what it means and why you should stand up against it

Ageism: do you know what it is? Does it relate to you? Have you been a victim of it, even in a very subtle way?

If you are an older adult, you need to know about ageism and be aware of it in our society.

Read on…

Ageism is the social process of discrimination against older persons. “Older” may be a very subjective word in relation to older people, but ageism is much less subjective.

Examples of ageism, unfair discrimination or social practices against older people:

  • Being served second in a fast food line, even though you were in line first;
  • A doctor prescribing medication which “will do given your age;”
  • A medical practitioner suggesting a lesser service because of your age;
  • Being addressed in a less polite manner than other customers;
  • Being ignored in favour of other customers though you arrived earlier;
  • Feeling like you are being treated as a second-class citizen.

Today’s world favours the younger generation, though what age is old depends on who you talk to. The younger generation, an age group that is relative to the age of the speaker, seems to have a superficial or light view of older people. Their time has passed, the time of the older adults. They are no longer current, no longer up to date. They aren’t as capable as they once were, and definitely not when compared to the younger members of society.

Hogwash, to say it politely. But to give the young people some credibility for what they say.

Old people don’t know as much
No, not true. They may not know as much a particular area in which a younger person delves. But they likely have forgotten far more than the younger person has learned. Furthermore, their interests lie elsewhere; hence they know more about areas in which the younger person has no interest. In short, the older person has lots of knowledge but it is likely in a different area of interest.

Older people are slower to learn
Again “slower” is a relative term. Slower than what? Slower than who?

Older people have been slowing their pace with time. A fast pace requires energy, effort, motivation and more. Older people don’t have these characteristics in the abundance as in younger days. Young people do. Plus, young people are constantly working at a frenetic pace, thereby reinforcing the pace at which they work.

To shift sides…
Older people lack the energy, drive or motivation to work as they once did. That ship has sailed, that train left the station. These people don’t have the energy that a fast-paced society demands. Working faster requires more sustained attention, more enduring motivation and far more lasting energy than these people have now. They have paid the price physically and cannot do as much as they did when they were younger, or for as long as they once could.

However, this does not make them second-class citizens and they should not be treated as such. They still can do it, just not a quickly as younger people, just not for as long as young people can do. This is simply a factor of age, not capability. Admittedly, age does bring secondary factors into play. Old people suffer more illnesses, the aged do not have the physical potential they once had. No body does.

Time to stand up or shout out or speak up
Older people may have to consider who they are, where they stand, what they want to see happening in relation to their aged colleagues and themselves.

There is nothing wrong with slowly sliding off into the sunset. Many people like the way life is slowly trickling through their fingers. There is nothing wrong with taking that position and basking in the glow of the golden years. But for the others who still feel being dynamic and energized is the only way they can live or should. These people need support and assistance.

A piece in The New Yorker magazine presents an interesting case about ageism. It is a 10 minute read but well worth it because it offers those of us who live in Western society observations which may put our society in a bad light. We are not as sensitive or permitting in our relationship with older people. And to add fuel to the fire, “old” keeps becoming younger and younger. We may have a big crowd of peers around us but we seem to be becoming more complacent and accepting of the depreciating situtation. I’m not. Are you?

The New Yorker article by Tad Friend


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