Here’s what you have to know about ageism.
What is ageism?
Ageism is the unfair treatment of seniors based on their age. In fewer words, it’s age discrimination. The term was coined by gerontologist and author Robert N. Butler, who studied how stereotypes about older people lead to prejudice and a biased attitude against them.
Now, the term can be used to describe a discriminatory attitude towards other age groups, but its original purpose was to bring the discussion about how we act and care for seniors to the table.
Much like racism or sexism, ageism is a serious matter that should be discussed and prevented.
How can ageism influence senior people’s lives?
People start noticing that, as they age, others talk down to them, dismiss their suggestions, question their ideas and opinions, or disrespect them in general (think harmful jokes and inappropriate comments). Much of this is due to ageism.
Although there are some positive stereotypes about older people, most of them, tend to have negative connotation.
Some examples of negative stereotypes are:
- Seniors are incompetent.
- Seniors are forgetful.
- Seniors are weak and can’t take care of themselves.
Because of that kind of beliefs, seniors can be refused entrance to places, services like insurance, or they can even lose their job. And all because of preconceived negative notions about age. It’s no wonder then, that seniors who experience this often display anger, frustration, and depression symptoms; which – needless to say – affects their mental and physical health.
Ageism affects society in general too. After all, acts of discrimination keep people apart and make us forget that we’re all human beings who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
What can be done about it?
Health workers and care providers work hard to prevent ageism by talking about it and sharing information about what it is and how much it affects seniors.
However, you can help even if you do not work in any of these areas. Encourage treating older adults with respect and practice what you preach…that is more than enough in the fight against ageism.
Don’t forget that, no matter our age, we should all relate to one another and do our best to enjoy such a human experience.