Ageism pertains to prejudice of society against older adults. Society seems to have a negative view on aging adults. Ageism was first coined in 1969 by Robert Butler, then director of the National Institute on Aging, to refer to discrimination practiced against older persons on the basis of age. Butler and other social critics pointed out that prejudiced, dismissive, and harmful acts and attitudes are directed towards old people by both individuals and institutions.
Our fondness for youth had contributed to a slanted notion about aging. This is evident in the recent popular trends of plastic surgery. Some people hold on to youth or want to attain youth-looking features at all cost even going under the knife. They are willing to take an enormous amount of pain and inconvenience in an apparent bid to preserve youthfulness. This mind-set has contributed to the view that aging is an undesirable state to be in.
It is not surprising then that old people experience some form of prejudice or oppression. Oppression due to ageism is evident in the language, depiction in media and even humor. Expressions such as ‘over the hill’ or ‘old fuddy-duddy’ often attach a negative impression aging. We seem to associate aging with impotency or incompetence. This is apparent in workplaces where aging employees are replaced by younger people because they are perceived to be less competent in handling the job.
The Destructive Impact of Ageism
Practice of ageism is often apparent in three major areas: prejudice in the workplace, inequality in the opportunities in healthcare system, and social prejudice. Old people are viewed as sick, sexless, ugly, powerless, and mentally deficient which lead to unfair treatment in the aforementioned three areas.
An obvious case of ageism in the workplace occur when older workers are not hired or promoted because employers often believe that they will be less flexible and less competent than younger employees. Businesses main goal is to earn profits, younger labor also implies cheaper labor as compared to their older, more experienced counterparts.
Heath care providers also restrict or limit opportunities for older people by ignoring or dismissing chronic complaints of the elderly to focus on the health needs of younger patients.
Finally, our culture often provides more emphasis to youth. Due to this odd preference, age has become a source of shame, ridicule, and disgust.