Ageism is a form of modern-day discrimination, and it’s on the fast track to becoming an all-out epidemic. The definition of ageism refers to the act of denying an older person human rights, solely based on their age. Although this discriminatory practice is against the law, it still happens frequently, particularly within the workplace environment.
As mentioned above, ageism is the discrimination and stereotyping against individuals based on their age. Ageism takes on many different shapes and sizes. There are typically four main types of discrimination and ageism:
Personal Ageism – Pre-determined ideas, attitudes, practices, and beliefs that are prejudiced against people or groups based on their older age.
Intentional Ageism – Practices that are carried out with prior knowledge that these practices are prejudiced against people or groups based on their older age. International Ageism includes carrying out methods that take advantage of older adults and their vulnerabilities.
Institutional Ageism – A set of rules, regulations, or mission statements that discriminate against individuals because of their older age.
Unintentional Ageism – Ageism can be attitudes, ideas, rules, or practices that are carried out without the perpetrator’s knowledge that they have prejudicial attitudes towards a person based on their age group. In other words, these practices or ideas are carried out by an individual who is unaware of the fact that they are prejudiced towards their victim based on older age.
Common Examples of Ageism
Ageism is hiding in plain sight all around us. This modern-day form of discrimination is much more rampant than you may think. Here are some examples of age discrimination:
Parties or social events that feature themes centered around death or “getting older,” such as black balloons and black crepe paper, cards that make fun of getting old, jokes about aging, etc..
The advertisement and promotion of “anti-aging” products or services.
People referring to minor moments of forgetfulness as having a “senior moment.”
Using condescending language towards or about older people, such as “she’s so cute,” “isn’t he sweet?”, “they’re so small and adorable,” etc..
People using slang terms to describe older people, such as “old fart,” “gramps or geezer,” or “little old lady.”
Assuming that younger individuals are computer smart and older individuals are technologically challenged.
Ageism can be an employer denying older workers employment opportunities because of negative attitudes towards aging adults.
Many of these actions are often seen in society, as we tend to take nicknames or name-calling lightly. We must stop these behaviors because they lead to other forms of ageism, like older individuals struggling to get a job due to prejudice and discrimination.
The Effects of Ageism
When ageism occurs, victims are left feeling hurt, useless, discriminated against, and even worthless. The scariest part is that it can shorten the lives of the elderly. Becca Levy, Ph.D., conducted a study involving 660 people over the age of 50, and the results were shocking. Those with a more positive outlook and self-perception lived 7.5 years longer than those who lacked in those departments.
Another surprising outcome that came from the study was how much of an impact young people’s positive perception and attitude towards the elderly can have on boosting their mental health. Levy was able to determine that when older adults are exposed to positive stereotypes surrounding aging, their memory and balance are robust when compared to those who aren’t surrounded by positive perceptions.
Stereotypes on aging are learned at an early age, long before they are even relevant to people. For example, by the age of four, children are aware of and familiar with age stereotypes. These ideas are reinforced over time.
Media is a significant issue, as they portray older adults as helpless, dependent, demanding, and unproductive. The reality is that most aging people are independent and have a lot of wisdom and talents, and are great contributing members of society.
5 Ways to Overcome Ageism
No one should have to deal with the effects of ageism. However, if you’re a victim of this discrimination, there are a few ways you can overcome it and fight ageism. Consider the following methods to overcome ageism:
Stick Up for Yourself – Do not ever let yourself be pushed around merely because you’re an older individual. You are experienced and wise; there is no reason to put up with any negative connotations associated with being considered a “senior.”
Participate and Stay Positive – One of the best ways to overcome ageism is to be positive and ignore it. With age, comes immense experience. Use your knowledge for good, and be sure to interact with people.
Spend Time with Young People – By hanging out with grandchildren, great-grandchildren, your friends’ kids, and other young people through groups or local community activities, you’re engaging with new generations that can motivate you to better yourself and learn new things.
Be Independent When Possible –The mind is a powerful thing. Experts say that when you think that you’re unable to do certain things for yourself, you won’t be able to do them. Try your best to do things on your own when possible and safe.
Volunteer – If you are a part of a church, join activities where they are participating in volunteer work. Become a member of a volunteer organization in your area, or donate your time at the local soup kitchen. Your help goes a long way to help others and yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below, you’ll find the most common questions about ageism and their answers.
How prevalent is ageism in today’s society?
According to a recent study, over 78% of adults over the age of 60 report experiencing one or more situations where they were negatively affected by ageism.
What acts of ageism are most commonly reported?
Among the many types of ageism, the display of discrimination is reported more often than any other kind. Being ignored, called derogatory names, and getting patronized, are among many discrimination cases aging adults have reported. Additionally, assumptions of age-related disability and frailty are also frequently reported.
What are the typical aging stereotypes?
As previously mentioned, aging adults are often perceived as dependent, depressed, unproductive, or having a form of dementia. Unfortunately, younger generations often profile seniors as being unable to use technology, hold a job reliably, or be a contributing part of a workforce. Along that same line, they often face the assumption of being unable to learn or adapt to the modern world.
How do ageist beliefs and attitudes develop?
Children learn ageist stereotypes from a very early age, and they continue to internalize ageist prejudices and bias according to their family and cultural environment. As they grow up, these beliefs are continually reinforced through exposure to media and other outlets.
Tackling the issue of ageism and age discrimination will require a new and better understanding of aging by all generations. We must actively teach our children and community of the dangers of ageism and how we can all work together to defeat it. Outdated concepts of older people being “burdens,” name-calling, and assumptions need to be squashed. Aging adults are intelligent and have experienced much more than most of us. We must give them the respect, protections, and equal opportunities they deserve.