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Redefining Senior Moments

Are you ageist and don't realize it?

by Successful Aging in Action! | 5.8.19

Ageism is Discrimination


Ageism is the last acceptable form of discrimination in our country. You might be thinking, “Of course I’m not ageist; I love older adults!” Or, “This doesn’t apply to me; I am an older adult!” Unfortunately, ageism is so much a part of mainstream society, we likely do not recognize all the ways it influences our language and behaviors.

For instance, consider the current thinking about retirees – once they finish working, they are no longer considered contributors to society, and are viewed as a burden to precious resources. What about within retirement communities, where levels of living are separated? Do you find yourself judging those who live “over there” in assisted living? And how many times have you said, “Pardon me, I’m having a senior moment?"

Age discrimination is not just about how the younger generations behave toward the older generations. It impacts every single person in our society by infiltrating our subconscious views of aging. This ultimately results in the very harmful ways we judge our own aging journey; this is sometimes referred to as internalized ageism. Each of us tends to be our own worst critic. Unfortunately, when this is fueled by negative views from society, it can result in disastrous effects. We see the symptoms of those struggling with age discrimination – both external and internal. 

Key indicators include hopelessness, depression, lack of meaning and purpose, withdrawal from activities, isolation from social interactions. We also see it in the hesitation to ask for support, in “not wanting to be a burden,” and not viewing the ways in which we support others as being noteworthy. At minimum, it is limiting ourselves to what older adults “should” and “shouldn’t” do.

To whose views are we subscribing? What can you do to increase awareness and take action? 

  • Examine your language and behaviors for signs of ageism, including your “inner voice” regarding your own aging experience.
  • Try the ageism litmus test: replace a gender or ethnicity with the world “old” or “senior” in a sentence, and consider whether the sentence is acceptable.
  •  The ‘Still’ challenge: Do you use the word “still,” as in “He’s still hiking at age 88.” This small word brings a large dose of ageism into a single sentence.
  • Talk about your observations and fears about aging with a supportive group of peers.
  • Be inclusive to ALL individuals, regardless of physical or cognitive ability, and be brave enough to challenge those who are not.

By Christa Bitner - Published in the July/August 2013 Masterpiece Living Mosaic

Successful Aging in Action!

Written by Successful Aging in Action!

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