Age discrimination, or ageism, is alive and prevalent in America society. Subtle bias against older people creeps into the jobs we hold, the language we use, and the jokes we tell – sometimes on ourselves. That’s the gist of two recent articles we’ve read recently on the topic of ageism: we can ignore it, or we can try to dismiss it, but it’s the one prejudice just about all of us will face sooner or later, unless we collectively change our ways.
Ageism is a Bias That Affects How We See Others – and Ourselves
The first article was this one published on the website Well + Good (www.wellandgood.com). As reporter Mary Grace Garis puts it, ageism is one of the “problematic biases” our brains tend to hold onto, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. Sadly, ageism is also easily overlooked, because jokes about growing old have become so common we seldom pay attention any more. Yet research has shown that more than four out of five people between 50 and 80 “experience one or more forms of ageism in their everyday lives.”
Sometimes, adds Garis, we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to age discrimination, “Not only is ageism a cruelty that we put on others, but it’s a cruelty we put on ourselves,” she writes. “We’re socialized to perceive younger as better way, way, way before we hit the middle age.” Research also shows that women have it worse. “Ageism is the top aspect that impacts women in the workforce,” says the Well + Good article. One 2019 study published by The Riveter revealed that “women over the age of 40 face serious discrimination when it comes to hiring even when for entry-level roles.”
Many Older Americans Face Ageism Every Day, Often in Subtle Ways
As if to corroborate these findings, we also came across this article on the theme of ageism from HealthDay. “Age-based job demotions, forced retirements and other overt examples of age discrimination can be harmful to older adults,” writes reporter Serena McNiff. “But what about more subtle forms of ageism – like jokes about ‘senior moments,’ or assuming an older person can’t use technology, or the constant barrage of anti-wrinkle ads in the media?”
New surveys now find not only that most older adults encounter “everyday ageism” constantly, but this subtle bias may actually affect their health and well-being. One researcher from the University of Michigan told HealthDay that, while a direct link between ageism and poor health was not necessarily established, “the fact that we found strong and consistent relationships suggests that there is something there.”
Ageism Can Be Internalized, Harming Our Self-Image and Our Health
In the same study as the one cited in the Well + Good article, the University of Michigan surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults, aged 50 to 80. As we noted above, 82 percent said they encountered ageist attitudes and behavior regularly, including doubts about their ability to hear, see or understand, and assumptions that they need help with tasks they can do on their own. Two-thirds reported seeing regular messages in popular media depicting aging as “unattractive, undesirable or worthy of ridicule.”
Tragically, one of the saddest findings in the survey was that fully one-third of respondents expressed personal negative beliefs about aging. “They think that being lonely is an inherent part of aging, and that depression and worry are unavoidable and just a natural part of aging when research actually shows that they’re not,” a study author said. This kind of ageism can take a severe toll on a senior’s physical and mental well-being. There appears to be a link, the poll suggests, between continual exposure to ageism and a more rapid decline in physical and emotional health.
The Cure for Ageism Begins with Self-Awareness
In the Well + Good article, reporter Garis calls ageism “a whole systematic mess of an issue” with plenty of complex and subtle components. Nevertheless, she states, “that doesn’t mean we can’t all try to be less ageist on a personal level. In fact, the journey starts with being simply aware of our internal mindset regarding age.” If we want to lay aside our own internal ageism, “we need to kind of retrain our brain to believe old isn’t a nightmare. And no matter what age you are, that journey is probably going to begin with your own personal perception of aging.”
Our experience suggests that awareness of our own bias is a good place to start. We can also make it a habit to stop the negative self-talk about growing older. No more age jokes! If we spend time with other seniors who are living dynamic and positive lives, it just might reinforce a positive view of aging as something to celebrate. We would also suggest that developing a plan to truly take control of your retirement future is a great way to banish fear of aging – and that means beginning now to build an AgingOptions LifePlan.
Join Rajiv Nagaich Soon for a Hosted LifePlanning Webinar
At AgingOptions our chief desire is to help you prepare for the kind of retirement you’ve always dreamed of having. Toward that end, we want to share the powerful principles of LifePlanning even during this period when most of us are required to avoid gathering in groups.
Rest assured, we’re monitoring local regulations and will resume in-person seminars as soon as they can be safely held. But for now, Rajiv Nagaich has scheduled several of his popular, free LifePlanning Seminars in the form of webinars that you can watch conveniently at home. Simply visit our Events Page and register for the webinar of your choice.
We also want to remind you of another vitally important service during the pandemic. In cooperation with our partners at LifePoint Law, we have launched a ground-breaking service called the LifePoint Law Emergency Legal Kit. Without leaving your home, you can now consult with a LifePoint Law attorney who will work with you to prepare and sign a complete set of vitally important legal documents including both Financial and Healthcare Powers of Attorney, a Living Will/Advance Directive, a Will or Trust, and much more. Click on the link or call us at AgingOptions and we’ll explain this excellent service to you.
A comprehensive, reliable retirement planning strategy has never been more important – and that’s our promise to you at AgingOptions and LifePoint Law. Age on!