Splitting Hairs on Ageism

Nowadays, everyone’s on the bandwagon of ageism, as if the term and its meaning were just discovered yesterday. No one really spoke of ageism out loud—and now that the topic is trendy, it seems we’re splitting hairs about it. Every little thing involving older-aged adults has become suspect for ageism. This is why I try to help people understand ageism and recognize its nuances through my classes, workshops, and talks.

The terms Ageist and Ageism have been placed at the forefront of the latest social media topics—but there’s a real lack of understanding of what ageism really is, so it’s often misinterpreted. And now, society has taken hold and begun to interpret and apply ageism whimsically and capriciously—sometimes, only acknowledging ageism when it’s convenient for the next social media post.

We see movies picked apart for allegedly promoting ageism and for their perceived lack of sensitivity to Seniors. For example, Book Club, the Next Chapter, has some viewers feeling the movie is ageist because its promotions paint the women as “old, cute, and silly” instead of highlighting the importance of their long-time friendship bonds. It’s so ridiculous! Why can’t a movie featuring “cute and silly” Seniors just be a fun, inspiring movie?

So what is Ageism?
Robert Butler coined the term in 1969 to describe discrimination against Seniors, old age and the aging process. He determined that ageism can be blatant, subtle, even casual—and it can be technological, visual, or implicit. You probably don’t recognize ageism when you see it. And when you do see it, you may be surprised you didn’t recognize it before. It’s obvious; yet, it’s so confusing.

Ageism is left to a lot of interpretations, perceptions, and misconceptions. Not everything that seems like it’s ageism or ageist actually is. We must learn the meaning of ageism and understand its nuances so we neither offend or discriminate, nor manufacture misunderstood words, actions, and interactions into ageism. In other words, we can no longer split hairs on ageism.

If you want to learn more, you may request my ageism info one-sheet at: [email protected].

Pat Landaker is a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) and owner of Living La Vida Senior, Ageless Aging, and CSA Senior Solutions. She serves on the American Society on Aging’s Social Impact and Innovation Council and the CSA’s Certification Council. She also teaches Positive Aging at UNLV/OLLI. Visit www.patlandakerAGEncy.com or email her at [email protected].

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