Ageism...Until it Happens to You
Let's face it... we all get old. There is no ticket out of aging. There's no influencing that can keep us young. Youthfulness has been celebrated in the western world as an almost status symbol. While those in the East, who by the way tend to live much longer quality lives, embrace elders for their sacred wisdom, to be revered and respected.
Aa very youth-oriented society with a rapidly growing aging population. Ageism is real and happens every single day. Addressing ageism must start now. With a rapidly growing aging population in the US, we must ensure that no one is left behind.
Ageism is defined by the World Health Organization as the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) directed towards others or oneself, based on age.
Aging is insidious and often impact health and healthcare, human rights and both older and younger populations. Ageism is a form of bias. Those unconscious biases that we have all learned about.
Today, October 7th is Ageism Awareness Day. And ageism is not something that I had ever thought about until recently when I realized that it does exist, especially as I see my parents who are over 60 trying to navigate and adjust to things, I take for granted like technology.
I found this video about aging and ageism and would love for you to watch it if you have time.
I remember once watching an episode of the Golden Girls where one of the characters, Rose Nyland had been let go from her grief counseling job.
She was very optimistic in the beginning that she would be immediately hired somewhere because she was dependable, friendly, loyal and eager. She delayed the fact she was laid off and appears to not be actively looking for a job.
Rose believed that she wouldn't have a problem getting hired somewhere because “people always hire someone that isn’t afraid of hard work."
However, we learn that even through her optimism she has been looking for work and has been unsuccessful because no one wants her. She begins to feel old, useless, and terrified.
I now understand why people feel that way. That episode of the Golden Girls appeared in the 1980's we are still dealing with those same issues of ageism today.
Ageism in the workplace is, "last hired, first fired" of modern day. It's harder for older people to find a job and easy to lose that job when times get hard, and businesses begin looking to cut employees.
But ageism doesn't stop with employment. We see ageism in housing, in transportation and in creating livable communities for seniors. We see ageism in healthcare and the quality of care available to the elderly.
Yet, we know today that grandparents are often raising grandchildren and the quality of life they can provide to their grandchildren will be critical.
And, while there are anti-discrimination laws that protect people over a certain age, such as the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) of 1967 which is federal law to protect workers and job applicants over the age of 40 from age-based discrimination in all aspects of employment, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 which prohibits age discrimination in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance, these are rarely protections against bias.
What is totally ironic in the bias against aging...is that the very people who are committing these acts of bias will one day be old and subjected to the same biases they hold today towards seniors.
As our parents get older and become the Rose Nyland's of the future, we must ensure that we have systems of care, livable communities, and opportunities for them to continue to work, serve and share their wisdom, skills and talents with those who come behind them.