What is ageism?
It is a prejudice against people based solely upon their age or perceived age. Ageism is one of the biggest issues that senior citizens face nowadays.
Senior citizens face ageism in many different places. They face it in the workplace as it is more difficult for a person over a certain age to maintain or attain employment. They face it in their communities when people question their ability do certain things or when people assume they would not be interested in an event because of their age. They face ageism in advertisements they receive in the mail.
Why is ageism such a big deal?
There is evidence proving that ageism can lead to a decline in both physical and mental health in seniors. When a person has been great at something all of their life (be it sports, hiking, running a business, or working at a job they love) and then they are told that because of their age they cannot continue as they normally would, it leads to depression and could even cause them to believe the lie that they are no longer as valuable as they were when they were younger. Physical health declines as people are told they should not engage in certain activities past a certain age and so they begin to find themselves more sedentary than they were when they were younger. As we all should know, exercise is key to healthy living.
How can we stop ageism?
1. Don’t make assumptions. Do not assume that a person is less capable of doing something well simply because of their age. Do not assume that they will need more help because they look older.
2. Include everyone. The same way that we try to make sure people of all races, religions, and ability levels are incorporated in our events, include people of all ages. If there is an event in the community, invite everyone even if in your own mind it seems unlikely they would be interested based on their age. You might be pleasantly surprised.
3. Do not make comments about a person’s age. Do not tell a senior loved one “be careful, you might fall and break a hip” because we do not say things like that to any other age group. Do not curse and scream at other drivers on the road and then when you see they are older don’t say things like “of course, it’s an old lady”, especially not in front of impressionable younger people and kids who may then make the assumption that elderly people are all bad drivers.
4. Make an effort to get to know every individual. Each and every human being on this planet has their own story and their own talents. Make an effort to give everyone the same amount of attention. Listen to their stories and make friends with them. Learn what each person can and cannot do and what they enjoy doing instead of just making assumptions based on their appearances.
5. Don’t make generalizations. Generalizations are key to any type of -ism issue. When we learn to stop making generalizations about different groups and learn to embrace each person for who they are, then and only then will we be able to put an end to the -isms and truly enjoy every part and phase of humanity.
Check out this website for more information about ageism.