We have seen ageism many, many times.

  • Someone over 50 is easily eliminated from their job for no fault of their own and cannot find another position because companies discriminate against older adults. Older women in the work place are let go and told, “Now you can spend more time with the grandchildren.”
  • An older adult complains of a health problem only to be told that they have a common complaint without the health professional researching further.
  • People who look older are spoken to loudly or in simple terms without knowing whether that person has hearing or memory loss.

Many cultures revere their elders. They consider their elderly to be wise and often seek advice and hang on their every word. The United States is not one of them. In our culture, youth is revered. This attitude is completely wrong because older adults offer so much.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Ageism is defined as discrimination against older people because of negative and inaccurate stereotypes—and it’s so ingrained in our culture that we often don’t even notice”.

Older adults are more financial and emotionally stable than their younger counterparts.  Those over 50 with experience in their field are more proficient and better able to handle more uncommon problems or emergencies. Think of medical and nursing professionals, accountants, electricians, etc. I personally think there is far less drama working with older adults than those who are younger. Why do advertisers want to appeal to those under 30? THEY HAVE LESS MONEY than those who are older. Why don’t they appeal to people who can afford their product?

Why do we not notice ageism?

Ageism is so ingrained in our society that it’s signs may be subtle. It is seen in the lack of training medical professionals. You find it in advertising when a twenty year old actor is the mother of a twelve year old actor in a commercial. Even people portraying the elderly in advertisements for wheelchairs, life insurance and incontinent products don’t appear to be even sixty years old. Finding an image for this blog of elderly people doing active things was almost impossible.

What are the effects of ageism?

Older adults who are unemployed before they want to are subject to poverty in their old age and companies lose expertise and institutional knowledge. Those whose doctors dismiss their symptoms are more likely to have advanced disease once the correct diagnosis is made. Ageism can effect the self esteem of older adults and therefore their mental health.

I had a resident in a building I ran for older adults who was told her coughing was psychological. She was give Prozac and cough medicine. She told her doctor he was wrong and sought another opinion. She had lung cancer. Good for her for speaking up!

What can be done to combat ageism?

First, we need to recognize that ageism is a form of discrimination, then our society needs to root out institutional ageism. Those that teach our future medical professionals need to have more training on dealing with the elderly. Ageism needs to be part of diversity, equity and inclusion in companies. Older people need to speak up and advocate for themselves and on behalf of those their age. This is only a start.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if young people came to their elders for advice and treated them like the treasure that they are? It is my hope that we can “go back in time” to really advance our society.