Most people do not know what ageism means. It was something that evaded me until last year when I looked further into the issue. So what is ageism? It is stereotyping or discriminating on the basis of a person’s age. Therefore, all individuals whatever age can be the target of ageism. However, older people are more subject to ageism, those 50+.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) released their First Global Report on Ageism. WHO conducted a survey of over 83,000 people from 57 countries which covered all six WHO regions of the world. The result was that one in every two people held moderately or highly ageist attitudes.
On a visit to an oncologist my One & Only (O&O) surprised the doctor who thought he should look much older for his age. He told us he expected him to arrive at his office with a walking stick (stereotyping – how we think). Other examples of ageism are:
- Refused travel insurance because of your age OR paying a higher premium.
- The news report talks about an elderly person. Then they are identified as 62 years old.
- Lose a job or do not qualify for a job because of your age.
- A person asks ‘when are you downsizing your house’ – as if all people who get to a certain age should do so.
- A 30 year old is told she is ‘too young’ to be the manager of a work department.
- If an older person is forgetful they might say ‘I had a senior’s moment.’
- If a person is in their 60s, 70s or 80s it does not mean they want to play bowls or board games. All ages enjoy these activities.
- If a woman has grey hair it does not mean she enjoys knitting or should be knitting.
Awareness of ageism brings about change. In your workplace or group of friends look out for ageism comments. You might be surprised to find they are peppered in every conversation.
For more information about ageism have a look at the video. It will take you 1 minute and 44 seconds.
Age should not define us. We are all individuals and we are all different, with different hopes, dreams and abilities. I am still working out how to ‘act my age!’ It is important to be ourselves and celebrate life whatever age we are. People get hooked up on age. They like to guess a person’s age or those who look younger then their age will ask people to guess their age. It makes people feel good if someone’s guess is 10 years younger than the biological age. But does it matter? I don’t think so. There are more things that matter: the type of person you are, whether you show kindness and gratitude – your character tells more about you than your age. Age is just a number, although a number we can all celebrate every year on the anniversary of our birth.
Recommendation 3 of the WHO report encourages us to build a movement to change the narrative around age and ageing. They state ‘we all have a role to play in challenging and eliminating ageism. Governments, civil society organizations, UN agencies, development organizations, academic and research institutions, businesses and people of all ages can join the movement to reduce ageism. By coming together as a broad coalition, we can improve collaboration and communication between the different stakeholders engaged in combating ageism.’
I am up for it. How about you?