Ageism is defined as prejudice or discrimination against older people because of their age. In reality, we have not moved very far in overcoming the prejudice against older people since the 1960s when the term “ageism” was first coined by Dr. Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging.
Ageism is one of the primary social problems affecting the second half of life. Most gerontology texts start with the definition of the following terms: ageism, myth, stereotype, attitude, prejudice and discrimination and list the following myths:
- Most older adults are sick, disabled, generally in poor health, and more acute illnesses than younger adults.
- Most older adults are senile and/or senility is an inevitable and untreatable mental illness among most elders.
- Most older adults are socially isolated, lonely, and live alone.
- Older adults are sick, useless, senile, miserable, and thus depressed.
- Older adults are frail or feeble, capable of making only a limited contribution to society.
Negative stereotyping of older adults as declining, dependent, diseased, disabled, demented, dysfunctional, and dying, stifles potential, detracts from the positive active, happy, healthy, social, and successful older adults. Worse, it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy: older adults do not do anything, because they assume they are not able.
There are four basic responses to discrimination:
• Reform (Individual, Organized, and Organizational)
Strategies to reduce ageism follow:
Individual actions to reduce ageism
- Gather information on facts of aging.
- Examine your own attitudes toward aging.
- Avoid use of ageist terms or language.
- Refuse to support those who discriminate against older adults.
- Join or support groups that oppose ageism.
Organized actions to reduce ageism
- Disseminate factual information on aging.
- Write articles about the facts of aging.
- Participate in programs that educate the public about aging and ageism.
- Organize efforts to boycott products from companies with ageism practices.
- Support organizations that participate in campaigns against ageism.
Organizational actions opposed to ageism
- Administration of Aging (AOA)
- American Society on Aging (ASA)
- Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (ASHE)
- Gerontology Society of America (GSA)
- Gray Panthers
- National Institute on Aging (NIA)
- Older Women’s League (OWL)
- Villers Foundation, Inc.
- National Council on Aging, Inc. (NCOA)
- National Council on Senior Citizens (NCSC)
- National Senior Citizens’ Law Center (NSCLC)
This year New Beginnings, an educational online website dedicated to helping second-halfers’ finish extremely well, launched a Longevity Response-Ability Crusade against
ageism and for older adult equality. The reform movement includes organizational, organized and individual strategic activities to reduce ageism.
Organizationally, New Beginnings formed the Second Half of Life Longevity Response-Ability Think Tank, affectionately referred to as Second Half of Life Visionaries. Its goal is to fight against elderhood ageism and for a better second half of life society. The team includes some thirty members. Each is accomplished in their own right in their area of expertise. They are some of the best second half of life and intergenerational ministry minds ever assembled for the task.
Longevity Response-Ability is a collection of readings (legacy letters, stories, and plans) written by team members about what church leaders and second-halfers can do to unleash the determination and power of a new “life stage” (age 65-84), called Elderhood (life beyond adulthood). Step one is to educate theological educational institutions, corporate church bodies, local congregations, nonprofit and private enterprises and governmental legislative bodies about the realty of a new “life stage.” The second step is to educate those in the second half of life to their choices for making a difference.
The theme is doing what you can, where you are, with what you have. The book will
be available mid-year from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Inspiring Voices.
Longevity Response-Ability was written to create awareness, provide momentum, and attract others to make social change. Each reading provides not only member expertise, but heartfelt instructions to better guide one’s legacy journey. The book was written as a fund raiser for a better second half of life society and equality against ageism.
Positive individual actions to reduce ageism available to each reader of this article are
- Pray for the second half of life longevity response-ability crusade.
- Invite a second half of life visionaries member to speak at your theological institution, your corporate church body, your local congregation, your convention, conference, retreat, or small group.
- Visit the New Beginning website for good stuff (www.gonewbeginnings.org/).
- Claim your free e-copy of Basic Ministry for the Second Half of Life Ministry Guide by emailing
- Robert W Chism (Bob)firstname.lastname@example.org
- Use Longevity Response-Ability and Basic Ministry for the Second Half of Life & Ministry Guide, as well as the books by other Second Half of Life Visionaries to do what you can where you are with what you have.
We are all in this together, growing older. Let’s give our grandchildren a better society
with second half of life equality and freedom from ageism.
The opinions expressed by ChangingAging guest contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of ChangingAging.org.