Ageism is a growing problem that is especially prevalent in the US! Ageism is discrimination (when someone acts on a prejudice) based on age. Dr. Robert Butler coined this term in 1968, noting that ageism sadly exists in all cultures, but lately more so it seems in the US.
Ageist attitudes sadly limit and make older adults feel inferior and insecure. It is always surprising to me how others cannot see and value that those with a wealth of knowledge, understanding, and experience cantering to the world! How do they perpetuate stereotypes and hurtful attitudes? But the reality of this is that often times individuals simply do not realize that they are doing this!
Please see some of the common examples of Ageism that happen in common conversation or on a daily basis:
- Saying phrases such as: " wow you look great for your age, you are walking really well, it is amazing that you can still do that, you are too old to wear or do that."
- Anti-aging products and services. Assuming that wrinkles, prostate, incontinence, or impotence is problem for all older adults.
- Name calling such as old man, crypt keeper, little old lady, old bag, biddy, old fogey, etc. It is simply not funny or appropriate! If you hear this being done do your best to correct it! Think of how you would feel, as your time will come...
- Addressing a younger individual who is accompanying an older adult rather than the older adult directly. This often happens at doctors offices, testing centers, hospitals, restaurants, salons, etc. Always address the older adult directly no matter what the circumstances may be. Never assume that they cannot answer!
- Describing forgetfulness as having a "senior moment", as everyone forgets something from time to time. Never make light of forgetfulness or act as if it is reserved for only older adults!
_- Praising an older adult for remembering something. How would you feel if someone praised you for remembering something simple??
- Patronizing language such as cutie, honey, sweetie, love, dear.
-Thinking that older people doing things associated with steriotypically younger people such as listening to popular music, cursing, referring to sexual activity is amusing, shocking, unusual, or surprising.
- THIS is a big issue lately that I see often!!!! Health care providers and social service providers who patronize older people, assume that they have dementia or cognitive impairment based on age, directly advising nursing home placement after injury irrespective of the circumstances, wishes expressed, or abilities, under treating, not providing full or appropriate rehab / equipment due to age, inappropriately treating and not valuing wishes, or overmedicate older adults. When in the hospital or in a rehab facility older adults need an advocate! It is rare that anyone needs to be in a skilled nursing home and other options should always be explored first! Skilled nursing home placement is a last resort always!!!! Care managers can assist well with this t ensure that wishes are valued and followed through on!!! Too many individuals end up incorrectly in nursing homes due to staff members showing ageism!!!
- Birthday parties featuring over the hill decor, black balloons, symbols of death, etc. Simply not funny!
- Cards or joke cards that make light of getting old , being ill, or being forgetful.
- Blaming older people for our health care and economic challenges. I hear the term silver tsunami, senior system drain, and that our older adult population growing is an epidemic. No one deserves to be made to feel bad about simply growing older! If lucky everyone will!
There are other examples of ageism out there also in the media, cartoons, and even commercials. Only we can stop the stereotypes and negativity through a change in daily behaviors. We need to stop seniors from feeling inadequate in our society. We need to build senior friendly communities! Seniors should never be made to feel that lying about their age is needed to avoid negative perceptions and treatment. In addition, no one should ever assume that a younger person can do something better simply due to age. This includes technology, computers, etc which is often an area where older adults are assumed to not understand!
Let's stop ageism one person at a time! If you experience any of these behaviors when out and about try your best to positively correct the behavior and move individuals down the path of effective and respectful communication!