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The Next ‘ism’

The Next ‘ism’

Take a moment to think about the jokes you laugh at and the birthday cards you buy. What images of aging and older persons do these reflect?  Is this a picture you want to embrace, and is this a perspective you want to promote?  Do you or would you like to be perceived this way? June was Seniors’ month, offering an ideal opportunity to explore and challenge our explicit and perhaps unintentional beliefs, myths, values and fears about growing older. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ageism as “…the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age.”  The WHO speaks further about the harmful effects this has on older adults, and suggests that this is even more widespread, accepted, and ‘normalized,’ than racism and sexism.  10 Common Examples of Ageism: • A service clerk or health care/social service professional speaks to an older adult through their adult children or caregiver. • An individual speaks extra slowly to an older adult in a loud and high pitched ‘singsong’ voice, while using basic simplistic language. • Automatic assumption of physical and/or cognitive decline. • Tell people they ‘look good for their age.’ • Describe older persons as being ‘adorable’ or ‘precious’ for participating in regular adult activities. • Refer to everyday forgetfulness as a ‘senior moment.’ • Call older persons ‘dearie’ or ‘sweetie.’ • Use negative references for older persons, such as ‘old fogey’ or ‘little old lady.’ • Promote ‘anti-aging’ products and procedures. • Assume all older persons are technically challenged. Impact of Ageism: Workplace:  Seeking ‘new graduates’ leading to limited workplace and career opportunities.  Ageism can also stoke workplace resentment by suggesting that older colleagues...