October 7th is Ageism Awareness Day, reminding us of the pervasive issue of ageism and its detrimental impact on society. The American Society on Ageing has excellent resources if you would like more information or want to get involved.
Ageism is not just a harmless stereotype or societal bias; it has profound consequences for individuals’ well-being, health, and financial security. This day serves as a call to action to address the various forms of ageism and promote a more inclusive, equitable society.
Ageism takes many forms, each with its own damaging effects. Internalized Ageism reflects how aging individuals perceive themselves. Negative self-perceptions of aging can have a profound impact on mental health and overall well-being. Cultural Ageism includes the everyday, often invisible, negative messages about aging perpetuated in movies, TV shows, songs, jokes, and more. These stereotypes normalize ageism in society.
Implicit Ageism are unconscious biases against different age groups that can lead to discriminatory attitudes and behaviors without individuals even realizing it. Benevolent Ageism, while seemingly well-intentioned, can be patronizing and paternalistic, suggesting that older adults need to be protected or cared for by younger generations. Ageism in Media and Marketing often perpetuates ageist stereotypes by underrepresenting older adults or portraying them in a comedic or stereotypical light. Marketing efforts often neglect the older demographic.
Ageism is far from harmless. It has wide-ranging implications for individuals, the economy, and society as a whole:
Health and Longevity: Research shows that individuals with positive self-perceptions of aging live longer. Ageism can contribute to negative self-perceptions, impacting health and longevity.
Financial Well-being: Older workers face unemployment, hiring discrimination, and limited professional development opportunities, harming their financial security.
Economic Impact: Ageism in the workplace leads to substantial economic losses, estimated at $850 billion in GDP due to involuntary retirement and unemployment among older workers.
Healthcare: Ageism in healthcare can result in less effective care, denial of treatment options, underdiagnosis of conditions like depression, and mismanagement of pain.
Media Representation: Media often portrays older adults in limited, stereotypical roles, perpetuating negative stereotypes about their physical, cognitive, and sexual capabilities.
Marketing and Advertising: Older consumers are underserved and underrepresented in marketing and advertising efforts, missing out on valuable insights and opportunities.
Addressing ageism requires collective effort and awareness. Here are some steps we can take:
Education: Start at a young age by teaching children about age diversity and challenging stereotypes. Create vibrant children’s books—and even books for all stages of life—that have positive depictions and images of older adults.
Media Representation: Advocate for more diverse and realistic portrayals of older adults in media and advertising.
Workplace Equality: Encourage inclusive hiring practices, professional development, and age-neutral policies in the workplace.
Healthcare Reform: Promote awareness of ageism in healthcare and advocate for equitable treatment for all age groups.
Support for Geriatric Care: Recognize the importance of geriatric care and invest in training and incentives for geriatricians and gerontologists.
Research: Support research on the links between ageism and elder mistreatment to develop evidence-based interventions.
Ageism Awareness Day on October 7th serves as a reminder of the urgent need to combat ageism in all its forms. This deeply ingrained prejudice affects individuals’ health, well-being, and financial security, while also taking a toll on society and the economy. By challenging stereotypes, promoting awareness, and advocating for change, we can work toward a more inclusive and equitable society where age is not a barrier but a source of wisdom and experience.
Where is ageism showing up in your life, family, and community? How will you support Ageism Awareness Day?