Ageism Is Everywhere. Here’s What We Can Do About It

By Katy Read
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Casual ageism is so common that it may seem routine, trivial or even well-intentioned. But it’s not necessarily harmless. Researchers have found numerous links between cultural ageism and health problems among older people.

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Birthday-card quips about the supposed horrors of getting older. “If ever there were a time to laugh and celebrate and dance the night away … it was about 20 years ago!”

Flashes of forgetfulness laughed off as “senior moments.”

Intended compliments like “You look great for your age!”

Products, advertising and magazine articles that promise to “erase signs of aging.”

Are these familiar cliches nothing more than harmless teasing, good-natured joking, genuine flattery and helpful advice?

Not necessarily. To academics and advocates who study negative stereotypes surrounding old age, they’re examples of ageism.

Of course, casual remarks are not illegal, unlike age-based employment discrimination. Labor statistics show that older job-seekers have more difficulty getting hired, which is why they are frequently advised to color their hair, update their wardrobes and lop the earliest jobs off their resumes.

Casual ageism, on the other hand, isn’t even especially frowned upon. It’s so common it may seem routine, trivial, well-intentioned. But it’s not necessarily harmless. Researchers have found numerous links between cultural ageism and health problems, physical, cognitive and emotional, among older people.

“There can be no movement unless the public clearly understands many of the powerful aspects of ageism,” said Margaret Gullette, a resident scholar in women’s studies at Brandeis University and author of the just-published “Ending Ageism, or How Not to Shoot Old People.” “People don’t even know how to deal with ageism, so they don’t recognize it when it happens to them. They don’t know how to complain about it. They don’t know to complain about it.”

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