Ageism – The Discrimination Against Older People

You may be surprised by what you’re about to read but when you think about it, I think you’ll agree with what I have written.

As Older People, We Experience It Frequently.

We have become so used to it we do not realize it nor how widespread it is. What I am talking about here is Ageism. defines Ageism as

  1. discrimination against persons of a certain age group.
  2. a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment.

Very Simply – Ageism is Prejudice

Consciously, you may not see it, but at a subconscious level, if you’re like me, you take steps to avoid it from happening to you. When you look more closely, you see it not only happens here in America, it is also happening right here in Knoxville and East Tennessee.

For many years our focus here in America has been on the youth and remaining young. Most ads on television, radio, in magazines and on the internet are for products to keep us young. There are age defying creams, make-up and hair dyes. There are also various food supplements to keep your body youthful.

The Message is Simple: Getting Old is Bad

Do All You Can to Stay Young and Beautiful as Long as You Can 

Then we also have the Protestant Work Ethic here in America. This simply states a person’s value comes from hard work and frugality.

The hidden message in this ethic is this – once a person retires, they no longer have value because their focus is no longer on hard work. They’re no longer pulling their weight. Others have to support them in their retirement years.

Staying young and working hard have been ingrained in each of us and it has affected us in different ways.

As We Look in the Mirror, Many of Us Get Depressed

Our face and body are aging right in front of our eyes even though we have taken many steps to

After we retire, some of us feel guilty that we’re no longer pulling our own weight.  We worry others are going to look down on us because they have to support us. Some of us try to avoid this by continuing to work as long as we can.

At times younger people resent us. They joke about how infirm we are and how slow we do things. They get frustrated with us when it seems we can’t understand how to use all of today’s technology – like computers, smart phones, tablets and even devices like Alexa.

We get the impression they think we’re holding them back and we just happen to be in their way at the wrong time.

One Place Ageism is Common is In the Workplace

There, it affects people who are much younger. Following the economic crisis of 2008, many companies downsized. Many people lost their jobs. In the years since then, most found new jobs. In fact, the unemployment rate in Tennessee in January of 2018 was 3.1%.

On the surface, that looks good. However, when you look closer, a severe problem exists. Many businesses didn’t want to hire those over 50. To get interviews, many omitted the years they graduated from high school and college on their resumes. They also didn’t include many of the jobs they first had.

In interviews, those over 50 had to compete for jobs with people in their 20’s and 30’s. Frequently, they weren’t hired because they were told they were overqualified. The companies opted to hire the younger people for less money. To look younger and avoid this, men started dyeing their hair.

While most older people are working now, a large number were forced to take part time jobs and jobs paying much less than they were making before. The problem now is they are underemployed. They also don’t find much chance of finding better work.

This discrimination in the workplace is causing many of them to live at poverty levels. Businesses can get away with this because this type of discrimination is difficult to prove.

When they reach 65, many won’t be able to retire. They won’t have enough money to live on. They can’t save money and the amount they will get from Social Security just won’t be enough.  So, they’ll have to continue to work. Younger people will resent them from stealing work from them.

More Subtle Ageism Also Occurs in Families

When people reach a certain age, their adult children think they’re no longer able to care for themselves or do things that they’ve been doing up to that point. They start to restrict their activity. One thing they try to is to get them to stop driving.

They also tell them to avoid doing other things which may hurt them. They start treating them like invalids even though they are still capable of doing what they’ve always done.

While thinking they are doing good, these older children are actually harming them. Suddenly, these older parents are now home-bound and can’t do what they did before. Their adult children don’t visit them any more frequently. They lose friends because their children have curtailed their friends’ activities too. Many become lonely and depressed because they have nothing to do and no one to spend time with.

Ageism Also Occurs in Social Settings

As people age, they reach a point where they don’t want to tell others how old they are. They’re afraid the younger people they’re interacting with may not want to have anything to do with them

It even occurs with the medical community.  Frequently, an adult child will take their older parent for a medical appointment. Rather than the doctor or nurse talking to the parent, they talk to the child, asking them all the questions and assuming the older person being treated is hard of hearing or doesn’t have a good memory.

In the last 50 years, developers started creating communities for those 55 and older. The belief here was that this would enable people to live with others their own age. Initially, that was good.  Frequently, those living in these communities are isolated from everyone else. They suddenly realize the only way they will ever get out is by dying or moving to an assisted living center or nursing home.

Senior Centers, Assisted Living Centers and Nursing Homes

Many communities and urban areas have senior centers where older people can go to participate in various activities. Here again, the problem is the older people who frequent these centers are isolated from younger people.

Most residents of assisted living centers and nursing homes are people over 65. Some of the nursing homes do not have a large enough staff for the people residing in them. They also do not provide enough activity for the residents. Many feel like they’re being shuffled off to prepare for death.

Loneliness and depression are far more common in older people than in the rest of the population.

Ageism in America Has to Be Eliminated.

In the far eastern countries, Japan, Korea, China and even Viet Nam, older people are respected. We need to have the same respect for our older people.

We also need to stop segregating them from other age groups.  We need to get their input on how they want us to treat them. We also have to demand that age discrimination in the workplace be eliminated.