So What is Ageism All About?

remember Pete Seger - Woodstock - August 1969

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Part of a series of articles on Discrimination

Ageism, also called age discrimination is stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify age based prejudice and discrimination. This may be casual or systematic.

The term was coined in 1969 by US gerontologist Robert N. Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism. Butler defined ageism as a combination of three connected elements. Among them were prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about older people

The term has also been used to describe prejudice and discrimination against adolescence and children, including ignoring their ideas because they are too young, or assuming that they should behave in certain ways because of their age.

Ageism commonly refers to positive discriminatory practices, regardless of the age towards which it is applied. There are several subsidiary forms of ageism.

- Adultism is a predisposition towards adults, which is seen as biased against children, youth, and all young people who are not addressed or viewed as adults.

- Jeunism is the discrimination against older people in favor of younger ones. This includes political candidacies, commercial functions, and cultural settings where the supposed greater vitality and/or physical beauty of youth is more appreciated than the supposed greater moral and/or intellectual rigor of adulthood.

- Adultcentricism is the "exaggerated egocentrism of adults."

- Adultocracy is the social convention which defines "maturity" and "immaturity," placing adults in a dominant position over young people, both theoretically and practically.

- Gerontocracy is a form of oligarchical rule in which an entity is ruled by leaders who are significantly older than most of the adult population.

- Chronocentrism is primarily the belief that a certain state of humanity is superior to all previous and/or future times.

Ageism may also lead to the development of fears towards certain age groups, particularly:

- Pedophobia, the fear of infants and children;

- Ephebiphobia, the fear of youth, sometimes also referred as an irrational fear of adolescents or a prejudice against teenagers;

- Gerontophobia, the fear of elderly people.

From the Grey Panthers:

Step I - Define It

Ageism is:

-Discrimination based on chronological age.

- The notion that people cease to be persons by virture of having lived a specific number of years.

-The use of age to define capability and roles.

- A process of systematic stereotyping of and discrimination against people just because they are old.

- To be told "you're too old" is as disheartening as to be told "you're too young"; both statements make you a stereotype when in fact you are an individual.

Step II - How to Identify Ageists

1. The Pretenders - These are misguided older folks who believe that age is "all in your head".

2. The Discriminators - Some of their best friends are old, so how could they be ageist? However, they are quick to point out the realistic limitations of older applicants to jobs in their sphere of influence.

3. The Exceptionalists - These elders consider themselves the fortunate exceptions to society's negative view of old people. While they think of themselves as vigorous, productive and useful to society, they imagine most of their peers to be in bad shape, useless and boring.

4. The Colonists - This type is frequently found among politicians, and is not at all rare in the ageism establishment. They may easily be identified because they always preface any word for the ageing with the possessive pronoun, such as "OUR senior citizens" or "MY elderly".

5. The Patronizers - This garden variety is common found in senior programs. To them, the old are just delightful when in "their place" and, like children, should be catered to and played with.

Step III - (The Hardest Step to Accept) We are ALL ageist.

Whether we're young, middle-aged or old, whether we've taken courses in gerontology or not, whether we think we're immune or too well-meaning to be afflicted, we are all ageists.

We're ageist because the society we live in is permeated with ageism. We can no more escape it than we can the chemicals in our food-- or sexism or racism for that matter. But at least in the case of the other two social diseases, there's been some progress and some serious efforts to combat them.

Ageism, by comparison, has been analyzed very little and manifests itself in variations with hardly a challenge.

Step IV - What You Can Do to Help Stamp Out Ageism

1. Quit complimenting people on how young they look.

2. Promote intergenerational job sharing, part-time hours, and no hiring or retirement according to a plan based on chronological age.

3. Try not to blame old age for fatigue or disorganization or forgetfulness. In our youth, we blame poor planning, lack of sleep, and a bad memory.

4. Criticize your local news media when a headline or cartoon is offensive.

5. When selecting a birthday card, keep your sense of humor. Just learn the difference between laughing WITH rather than laughing AT.

6. Fight ageism with two important weapons -- knowledge and a willingness to approach every person, regardless of age, as an individual with unique strengths, weaknesses, options, and opportunities.

The above information was found on the Gray Panthers website...gray panthers are... Age and Youth in Action. We are an intergenerational, multi-issue organization working to create a society that puts the needs of people over profit, responsibility over power and democracy over institutions.