Friday, August 22, 2014

Ageism - Worthy of discussion!

Photo credit: The Equality Authority

One of my Facebook friends recently posted a cute pic of two dear elderly ladies with the caption…We will always be friends until we are old and senile – then we can be new friends.  
The sentiment was heartfelt. I’m sure that my friend wanted the recipient to know that she was celebrating lifelong friendship.  The comment that hit a raw nerve with me was the caption she added above the picture, “then we can pee our pants and nobody will care.” I don’t want you to think I don’t have a sense of humor.  I believe we have to find the humor in the circumstances of life and the joy that sharing those moments with a loved one can bring. However, the sobering fact is my friend’s comment is not completely off the wall.   I’ve been privy to circumstances where “no one cared", and it's nothing to laugh about.

Facing age discrimination in one's everyday life offers a multitude of challenges, but can be especially damaging when experienced in the workplace. According to a 2012 study commissioned by AARPover one-third of respondents reported that they or someone they know has experienced age discrimination in the workplace.  Older workers are too often considered “past their prime” or “unwilling to change with the times.”   Overlooked for promotions after the age of 50, difficulty finding employment when over 50, and being forced out due to corporate downsizing is just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s not much better in the healthcare community, where we see additional stereotypes imposed on our aging population.  Impairments can be treated as just “part of growing older” or go unrecognized completely. Seeing more than one doctor is cause for different medical concerns. Medication therapies and prescriptions can be handed out without appropriate consideration due to a lack of communication between physicians.  This can cause serious medical and cognitive issues.

Much of the fuel behind negative connotations for older Americans is perpetuated by the media.  Television sitcoms, commercials and movies often depict older adults as dependent, unproductive, and health impaired.  At times, the cultural fabric of America appears to not revere their older generation.   Media can at times make them the butt of the joke and a characterize them as a drain on society.  I believe this portrayal is unfair to seniors, many of whom are still functioning well and are financially independent.

The issue of Ageism is only going to become a higher priority with the Baby Boomers heading full steam into their golden years.  According to the 2010 U.S. Census, nearly 40 million Americans were over 65 years old, and that number was expected to double by 2050, or 20.4% of the population.

"We need to raise the consciousness of the need for aging material," says Forrest Scogin, PhD, a University of Alabama psychology professor. "There needs to be a greater awareness of who the older adults are--they are a diverse group. Ageism and stereotypes just don't work.”

Could it be that I’m hypersensitive?  Possibly. But having been behind the lines in senior care, I’ve personally witnessed dismissal of seniors' concerns, overlooking of healthcare needs, and needless instances of loneliness and despair.   I can’t help but take a stand when I see what in some cases seems to be a cavalier attitude.  Age discrimination should be taken seriously, and not just dismissed as harmless.  If I can shine a light toward increased awareness of a growing problem in our culture, then I’ll take that challenge. We have fought hard against discrimination on the basis of race, gender and partner preferences, yet ageism is just as worthy of discussion.  This nation is blessed to have one of the greatest resources for enhancement of life experience, spiritual growth and family heritage right here with us.  Rather than discriminate or make fun of our seniors, let’s celebrate and honor them at every opportunity!


  1. You should hear some of the stories of ageism I've heard at NCWorks, our local employment center.

  2. Donna - would love to - just so in my public speaking engagements. change the names to protect the innocent and guilty and the employers of course- but SHARE it would help the effort - thanks for taking the time to read !