Are you an ageist?
Do you ever find yourself thinking that your aging family member belongs in a home? Do you find yourself flicking off old people as you swerve around them when they are driving “too slow” for your standards? How about talking to your elders like they are a toddler (elderspeak) and calling them “too cute?”
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you, my friend, might be an ageist. (Another way you can test if you’re an ageist is by completing this test , located in “Project Implicit Social Attitudes”, I had to do for class. I won’t even tell you my scores. They were pretty bad.)
What is an ageist, you might ask? It’s the deliberate discrimination against someone of a certain age group. It’s like being a racist or a sexist but for older people. I learned about ageism in my Developmental Psychology class this semester. As I listened to my professor lecture, I thought to myself – there is no way I am an ageist. I call older ladies “miss” and always help older people out a little bit more than anyone else. Apparently all of the things I thought I was doing out of respect was actually me being patronizing.
It doesn’t just have to be about older people. My class did focus more on ageism against people in their late adulthood years but it goes both ways. A lot of people think the younger generation doesn’t know what it’s talking about. They’re getting dumber and dumber as technology gets smarter and smarter (which I secretly believe is true. Guess I’m an ageist).
Some of the people like when I call them “miss.” My dad even says that he calls older women “young lady” and they don’t seem to mind at all. But it’s the opposite when someone calls me “ma’am.” According to my textbook, I am being a little shit to them, but I think it’s our culture that allows such things to take place without a second thought.
Getting old in our culture is something to be feared or put off. We buy into advertisements about the latest face cream that stops wrinkles in their tracks or hair dye to cover up our grays. Silver fox. No one ages with pride. Our aging is something to be ashamed of instead of being viewed as a product of being alive. Ageism isn’t recognized nearly as much as other isms because of how accepted it is. I didn’t even know it was a thing until this semester. We grow up with this mentality that by the time we’re into our late adulthood years – we think nothing of it.
Side note: The reason why older people drive a little bit on the slower side is because reaction time reduces with age. In order to compensate for this, older people drive slower, so they have more time to react. So in a way, they’re looking out for your best interest and you’re just being a dick.
My friends and I always say things like “7 more years until we are 30.” Then we groan and curse the day we were born. Is turning 30 really as bad as I think it is? I’m 23 and can’t seem to get my life together and I really hope (and almost expect) that I will have it figured out by the time I’m there. I’m acting like my life is going to suddenly stop and become horrible once I make it to 30. Imagine my groaning when I turn 70! It’s a product of my culture and it’s pretty pathetic. Turning 30 should be when my life begins – not when it ends.
“30 and flirty!”
In all seriousness, everything today is about having the newest gadget and trading your old whatever in for a new one. Slow is bad and fast is good. Having a permanent scowl on your face from too much botox is better than laugh lines. God forbid you laughed a few times in your life. Old people deserve to be in old folks’ homes and young people shall inherit the Earth (by force). Did you know that most elders are extremely independent? Only 10% depend on others and 4% live in homes or hospitals.
My great grandmother had dementia. It was awful. But we found humor in the disease by saying we all have a light sprinkle of dementia. When someone says “thingy” instead of what they were actually talking about, it’s just like “Oh, that Hannah. She’s got dementia today.“ My textbook says that thinking ageist thoughts actually makes it more likely you will have medial problems later on than you would if you didn’t. It’s like when you believe you can’t do something, so you don’t (or vice versa). When older people forget something, your first instinct is to believe they have dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and not just because they are getting older and these things tend to happen.
I probably just made my family sound terrible. Oopsie.
The old saying “respect your elders” has really lost its meaning. I think we might all benefit from acknowledging that ageism is an actual problem and believe that getting older isn’t such a bad thing after all.