Ageism refers to discrimination or prejudice against individuals based on their age. This can happen in various ways, like workplace discrimination where someone might not get a job or promotions because of their age. Adultism is one of the ageism examples, which is when adults treat young people unfairly or don’t take them seriously. Digital ageism happens when older adults are excluded or overlooked in technology use or access.
Another form is visual ageism, often seen in media like Hollywood, where stereotypes about age limit opportunities for actors or actresses. Ageism even affects statistical research, where certain age groups might be overlooked or misrepresented. It’s also present in healthcare, where older individuals might not receive proper treatment or attention.
Dealing with ageism can be tough. It can impact mental health, self-worth, and finances. However, there are ways to fight it. This includes raising awareness, challenging unfair treatment, and promoting inclusivity in workplaces and everyday life. Standing up against ageism can make a difference in creating a more respectful and fair society for people of all ages.
What is Ageism?
Ageism is when people judge or treat others differently because of their age. It happens at work or in personal life, affecting both older adults and young folks. But older adults often face more discrimination because our society tends to admire youth more.
This bias starts early. Even as kids, we learn that getting older isn’t good and older people can’t manage things well. We see this in ads promising to make wrinkles vanish or TV shows portraying older people as clueless. Jokes and comments from family and friends can also spread ageist ideas.
Ageism is seen as more okay than racism or sexism, but it’s still a big problem. Fixing it won’t happen overnight, yet ignoring it isn’t the answer. You can do things to fight ageism. By taking action, you make life better for yourself and help create a fairer culture where stereotypes matter less and discrimination happens less often.
1. Discrimination In Workplace
Ageism in the workplace is one of the most prominent examples. it has to do with unfair treatment towards older folks at work and was highlighted by Loretto in 2000. Palmore added that bosses often label older employees as stubborn about change, not too creative, and tough to teach, as per his 1999 study.
Meanwhile, women encounter more age bias as they’re usually presumed to step away from work when having kids. This discrimination can limit job opportunities and affect how older workers are seen and treated, making it tough for them to grow in their careers.
It’s not just about being fair; it’s about ensuring everyone has a shot at doing well at their jobs, no matter their age or gender. That’s why there’s a push for workplaces to embrace diversity and treat everyone based on their skills and abilities, rather than stereotypes or assumptions based on age or gender.
Also Read: 15 Ingroup Bias Examples
2. Age-Based Stereotypes
Age-based stereotypes are common, especially aimed at older folks. People often label forgetfulness in seniors as a “senior moment,” even though anyone can forget things. Hurtful phrases like “dirty old man” or “second childhood” contribute to ageism, shaping how we see older people.
There’s even a term, “sexpiration date,” suggesting a point after which someone is seen as less attractive in dating. These stereotypes create unfair judgments about older individuals, assuming they’re all forgetful or no longer desirable. They overlook the unique qualities and experiences of each person, unfairly grouping them based on age.
It’s important to challenge these stereotypes, recognizing that age doesn’t define someone’s worth or abilities. Everyone, regardless of age, deserves respect and fair treatment, free from these limiting and inaccurate beliefs. Embracing diversity in experiences and personalities among older individuals can help break down these harmful stereotypes.
Adultism is when adults are favoured over young people, and there’s a bias against kids and teenagers. People often think that younger ones can’t contribute much and ignore their ideas. Young folks are also expected to act in specific ways just because they’re young. Another related idea is “adultocracy,” where society believes that only adults are mature and in charge compared to younger people. This means adults hold more power and influence just because of their age.
This bias can affect various aspects of life, such as how young people are treated in schools, families, and communities. It might limit their opportunities to share opinions or make decisions, assuming they don’t have valuable thoughts. Adults might not take them seriously because of their age, which can make young people feel undervalued.
It’s important to understand and challenge these biases to create fair opportunities for everyone, regardless of their age. By recognizing and respecting the perspectives of young individuals, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment for them to grow and contribute positively to society.
4. Benevolent Prejudice
“Benevolent Prejudice,” a term used in social contexts, describes a kind of bias where certain age groups, both the young and the elderly, are viewed with kindness but also seen as incapable or less competent. This attitude involves considering them as friendly but not entirely capable. For example, a survey conducted by Age Concern revealed that 48% of respondents found people over 70 to be friendly, while only 27% said the same about those under 30. However, a mere 26% perceived the over-70s as capable.
This prejudice often stems from societal stereotypes that link certain age groups with specific characteristics. People might see older individuals as warm and pleasant but believe they lack the ability to handle tasks or make important decisions. Similarly, younger people might be viewed as friendly but not taken seriously due to perceptions of their inexperience or immaturity.
These biases, though seemingly positive, can still limit opportunities and create unfair expectations based solely on age. Addressing benevolent prejudice involves recognizing these assumptions and ensuring that individuals of all ages are valued for their abilities and contributions rather than being solely judged based on age-related stereotypes.
5. Digital Ageism
Digital Ageism is one of the prominent examples; it is when people are treated unfairly because of how well they use technology. Some folks think that young people are always great with tech, but they believe older people can’t use it at all. This happens because older folks might not have as much access to gadgets and might not get taught how to use them properly. Because of this, they might not feel as confident using technology.
Age isn’t the real reason someone might struggle with tech. It’s more about not having the same chances to learn or practice. Imagine if you had to play a video game without being shown how the controls work – it’d be tough to play, right? That’s kind of how it is for older people trying to figure out technology without anyone teaching them.
It’s important to remember that anyone can learn how to use technology, no matter their age. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of help or some practice to get the hang of it. Digital ageism happens when people assume someone can’t learn just because they’re older, and that’s not fair.
6. Ageism in Healthcare
Ageism, as described by Robert Butler, is more than just stereotypes about age. It deeply impacts healthcare. In medical settings, discrimination based on age influences how doctors treat patients. From initial screenings to treatment choices, ageism plays a role. Unfortunately, older patients often face negative perceptions from doctors, who might see them as pessimistic or less hopeful. This affects the treatments offered, with doctors sometimes opting for less intensive care, prioritizing disease management over striving for a cure.
This issue can lead to older patients not receiving the same level of aggressive treatments that younger patients might get. It’s a concerning problem within healthcare that affects how different age groups are cared for and the medical decisions made for them. This kind of discrimination can impact someone’s quality of life and access to potential life-saving treatments solely based on their age.
Effects of Ageism
Ageism goes beyond just hurtful words; it can have huge impacts on how you feel, your health, your social life, and even your money. Being treated unfairly because of your age can cause a lot of problems.
Ageism can actually make people die younger. One study found that older adults who thought they were worthless or not useful had shorter lives compared to those who had a positive view about getting older. Feeling bad about your age can also make you sick more often and make it harder for you to get better when you’re sick.
There are a few reasons why this happens. If you feel bad about yourself, you might not take care of yourself as well. You might eat bad food, smoke, drink too much, or not take your medicine like you should. It can also make it harder to bounce back when bad things happen because you don’t have enough support from others.
Sometimes, doctors might treat older people differently because of their age, and this can make their health worse. They might not get the same treatments or be part of studies to help them stay healthy. Not being able to talk well with doctors can also make things worse, like not taking medicine the right way.
Mental Health Effects
Ageist comments from family or coworkers can make you feel really bad about yourself and make you question your worth. Studies show that ageism can make your mental health worse and even cause depression. The World Health Organization thinks that about 6 million cases of depression around the world might be because of ageism.
When you believe bad things about getting older, it can actually make your brain work worse. You might start forgetting things more because you’re afraid of being just like those bad things people say about old age. This fear can make you perform worse on tasks, like remembering stuff.
Effects on Social Life
Ageism can make you feel alone. If people treat you badly because of your age, you might avoid spending time with friends and family. You might even stop going to events or places because you feel scared or unwanted.
Sometimes, people think older folks shouldn’t be intimate or go out, so they isolate themselves. This can make you feel really alone and sad.
Being lonely can cause a lot of other problems too, like more stress, worse sleep, and getting sicker more often. It can even make mental health issues worse and make your brain work less well.
Ageism can mess up your money situation too. You might not get better jobs or training because people treat you differently. Some companies might even charge you more for things like insurance just because you’re older.
Also, because some people think older folks are not smart with money, they might try to trick you. Falling for these tricks can cause you to lose money and feel really bad about it.
How to Handle Ageism
Handling ageism involves acknowledging the reality of getting older. Changes happen as we age – maybe your body isn’t as quick as before, your sight or hearing might weaken, and wrinkles might appear. It’s natural to feel unhappy or uncertain about these changes. Don’t ignore those feelings; it’s okay to feel that way.
But remember, there’s more to you than age-related changes. Despite what society might say about ageing, you still have a lot ahead of you. You hold wisdom and experiences that are valuable. Don’t let ageist beliefs, either from within yourself or from others, limit you.
To confront ageism, start by embracing these tips:
- Self-Acceptance: Accept the changes and be kind to yourself.
- Perspective: Focus on what you can do, not just on limitations.
- Contribution: Recognize your value – you have a lot to offer.
- Challenge Stereotypes: Don’t let ageist beliefs hold you back.
- Support System: Surround yourself with people who value you for who you are.
Ageism might exist, but it doesn’t define you. Embrace your age while refusing to let stereotypes dictate your life. You’re still full of potential and worth, regardless of age.
- Butler, R. N. (1969). “Age-ism: Another form of bigotry”. The Gerontologist. Oxford University Press.
- Iversen, T.N.; Larsen, L.; Solem, P.E. (2009). “A conceptual analysis of ageism”. Nordic Psychology. Taylor & Francis Ltd.
- Kleyman, Paul. (2002). “Images of Aging.” Encyclopedia of Aging. Macmillan Reference USA.
- Loretto, W.; Duncan, C.; White, P.J. (2000). “Ageism and employment: Controversies, ambiguities, and younger people’s perceptions”. Ageing & Society. Cambridge University Press.