Ageism is all around us: in the workplace, in commercials, movies and TV shows we watch, in the cards we buy, the products marketed to us and yes, even in the language we speak.
Has anyone ever said to you, or perhaps you to another person, “You look great for your age”? Although probably well-intentioned, there is an inherent bias against growing older contained within this “compliment,” an underlying expectation that you wouldn’t or shouldn’t look great as an older adult. Do we offer the same compliment to a 19-year-old or a 29-year-old? Somewhere along the way, looking great is not associated with advanced years.
What about the phrase “senior moment”? We tend to attach a brief lapse in memory to only the older adult. However, elementary students routinely forget where they’ve left their backpacks or to feed the dog. Many teenagers have misplaced earbuds or sports jerseys. What about the mom or dad who searches for the car keys or goes out to the garage and upon their arrival, forgets the item they went there to retrieve? The fact of the matter is that we all experience momentary forgetfulness throughout our lives. Yet it is emphasized when it happens as an older adult. And no, it’s not necessarily a sign of dementia, but rather a manifestation of our busy lives.
Ageism is discrimination or the devaluing of an individual or group of individuals based solely on their age. And it can be directed toward the young as well as older adults. It creeps into our psyche at a very young age and is continually reinforced throughout our lifetime. As a result, many of us are convinced that young people are not able to lead a work group, offer valuable ideas and solutions to societal issues or are not compassionate towards others. On the other hand, society in general believes that as we age, we have nothing more to offer, obstruct the success of younger people on the way up the corporate ladder or are a drain on the economy. None of this is true.
Subtle and not-so-subtle messages about the aging process surround us each day. Do we recognize them and realize the negative effect they have on us? Can we effect a change in how we all think, speak and act about aging? Gretchen Lopez, chair of the Seniors’ Council of Douglas County, will deliver a thought-provoking and entertaining presentation on Thursday, May 4, at 10 a.m. at the Parker Library. And we won’t be asking for birth certificates at the door, so leave those at home! Meetings are free and open to the public.
Seniors’ Council of Douglas County is for older adults who want to be heard, keep learning, and make a difference. Please check our website for details and possible program changes at douglas.co.us/community-services/services/senior-services/seniors-council.