প্রবাসী ছন্দে Vishnupriya (নিউ জার্সি, ইউ.এস.এ)
Oct 7 is Ageism Awareness Day.
We have all been aging or growing older since the moment we were born. Every birthday is a reminder of this reality, and we celebrate it with joy and gratitude. This is simply because we have been truly lucky to see it year after year so far. I mean our continued presence on this planet is mostly accidental, not everyone is fortunate enough.
Aging is the only inevitable reality of our existence in this space and time. Then why do we shy away from it, feel scared about it, and desperately try to cover it up with quick fixes? But many of us need to be told again and again that people are the happiest at their youngest and their oldest. This is the U Curve of Happiness. Think about it for a moment. And how myopic it is to miss it all the time.
That is why the middle aged may be the grumpiest!😃
So, if someone looks at an older woman and feels, “OMG her wrinkles are ugly and she looks pathetic”, she is at the receiving end of a double whammy: ageism and sexism. Haaah! She needs to forgive them for they know not what they feel. They are unconsciously advocating Ageism! So, the entire Skincare Industry wanting to erase wrinkles and crow’s feet and lift whatever creased, drooping, sagging skin is visible on a face, or hands, and every other body part of a mature woman is being Ageist! God bless them!! Instead the Beauty Industry needs to depict older women as complex individuals that they are, beautiful inside-out addressing their challenges as well as their willingness and ability to overcome them. Beauty is never skin deep.
Since Longevity is here to stay, it is cool to keep living. “It is the theme of the future.”( Ken Dychtwald) and is a signpost of a progressive world based on science and breakthroughs . So, let’s dismantle Ageism and focus on people’s purpose in life instead. We certainly need to ditch the binary of young and old and embrace the rich spectrum of living in its entirety. And imagine the huge gift of older wisdom from all the experiences life has offered to a person of mature age that can be shared with others who can then build on it.
It is important to know that Ageism is not the same as Aging. Ageism informs us to respond to a natural biological process as something to be insecure about, to be pushed away, and to be disrespectful about. Ageism is a widespread stereotyping (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards people based on their age. Every second person in the world is believed to hold ageist attitudes leading to poorer physical and mental health and reduced quality of life for older persons, costing societies billions of dollars each year, according to a new United Nations report on Ageism. Besides, it is “a deep-rooted human rights violation” (Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights).
Ageism could be:
Internalized Ageism*: It is how we feel about ourselves as aging people; and how older adults marginalize and discriminate against other older people.
Cultural Ageism*: The everyday, invisible, profoundly ingrained and normalized negative messages about aging and older people embedded in movies, TV, songs, jokes.
Implicit Ageism*: The unconscious bias that includes attitudes, feelings, and behaviors toward people of other age groups that operates without conscious awareness or intention.
Benevolent Ageism*: Patronizing, paternalistic beliefs, or behaviors that older people need to be protected and taken care of by younger people, because they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
Ageism intersects and exacerbates all the other “isms”, including racism, sexism, and ableism. And let’s not lose track of the fact that all isms are socially constructed ideas. Besides, Ageism also thrives on ‘othering’ (suggesting this is a group apart, not us) and allows negativistic attitudes to persist and perpetuate. Multiple intersecting forms of bias compound disadvantage and worsen the effects of ageism on an individual’s health and well-being. It affects health and longevity. Older individuals with more positive self-perceptions of aging live 7.5 years longer than those with a less positive self-perception of aging and this leads to positive health consequences.
Ageism harms our financial well-being. Older workers face longer periods of unemployment, discrimination during the hiring process and fewer professional development opportunities. It harms the economy in terms of lost gains to the GDP because of involuntary retirement, underemployment and unemployment among older workers.
Ageism shows up in medicine and society in terms of less effective care, like denial of treatment options, underdiagnosis of depression and mismanaged pain. Also, huge increases in healthcare costs have been reported due to ageism.
I remember the Oncologist in India telling me when my Dad was being treated for Epithelioid AngioSarcoma (a rare form of skin cancer on the scalp), “Oh he is old, he doesn’t need cancer treatment. All he needs to do now is be patient and accepting.” I thought that was downright negligent and evasive apart from being professionally incompetent, callous, brutal, and heartless. This was Ageism at its worst. But I made sure that my Dad got the right treatment regardless of his age and we both accepted the outcome after having tried our best. Many older people may not be lucky enough to have someone advocate on their behalf. That is unfortunate and unfair.
Then, Ageism is pervasive in the Media in comic portrayals of older people drawing on stereotypes of physical, cognitive, and sexual ineffectiveness. But older adults are capable, competent, effective, engaged and should be portrayed as such and valued in all areas of society. Interestingly, more older adults are using TikTok nowadays to create content on themes like Defying Age Stereotypes, Making light of Age-Related Vulnerabilities( like an older TikTok user asking God for an age refund!) and Calling out Ageism. Well done!! And this proves contrary to a long held belief that older adults are necessarily technophobic, they are not.
Ageism is also presumed to be a causal factor of elder mistreatment, neglect, abuse, and fraud. If only we read and listened to one of today’s foremost American gerontologists, who’s an innovative thinker and psychologist Ken Dychtwald, we’d be sure to review our notions and views on Longevity and Transformational living.
Also, “Ageism can cause generational divides, devalue what the older generations can offer to society, and limit perceptions of their capabilities”(The Forgotten Bias: Ageism in Marketing by Ella Fisher)
We often equate physical decline due to aging to cognitive and behavioral impairment and nothing could be farther from the truth. The truth is that the physical faculties may become weaker and more tired with the chronological passage of time, but the mind tells a different story unfolding in unique ways regardless of physical age. Merely getting older does not take away our dreams and make us lose sight of magic moments like John Glen who traveled in space at 77. I remember Bill Clinton’s words in this context : “When our memories outweigh our dreams, we have grown old.” That is exactly why we should be able to look forward to a more purposeful “Olderhood” of pursuing our passions and feeling content and fulfilled in later life.
So, we need to challenge stereotypes and discrimination based on age and use advocacy for a society that respects and values people of all ages. Let’s reframe how we talk about aging and older adults. A case in point is how Allure Magazine announced in 2017 that it will not use the term “ anti-aging” anymore because the editor Michelle Lee thought the “ phrase was subtly reinforcing the message that aging is a condition we need to battle.” So, we all need to work towards a more age-inclusive, age-integrated, age- friendly and more age-abundant world.
1. Ageism Fact Sheet by American Society on Aging
2. The Age Wave by Ken Dychtwald https://youtu.be/FsPPlDXyPpo?si=OGtzUDYJ40tgGoTX
3. This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite