The insidious thing about otherization is that it is applied to all kinds of distinctions: race, ethnicity, gender, ability, and sexual orientation, to name a few. And, of course, to age.
Calls for a de-youthanized science are not lofty, liberal political appeals; they are attempts to actually purify gerontological science and practice. A de-youthanized science means a more valid, generalizable science—a science, for example, that adequately samples older adults in the service of providing sufficiently evidence-based recommendations for diagnosis and treatment
Agism cuts both ways, discriminating against both the so-called ‘young’ and ‘old,’ and turns these two seemingly innocuous words into pejoratives. When ‘young’ and ‘old’ are used colloquially rather than as they were intended (as comparative markers of time) they become profane.
Like questions about any other topic, the ones we ask about aging and the ways in which we choose to answer them reveal what we believe and care about.
Growing older is nightmarish, but it also provides glimpses of how heaven is right here within reach. I think these glimpses, which reside in the failing sight of the old, and the disabled, are precious, and should be a regular part of our collective journey into mystery.
As a culture, we have adopted a sort of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy about sexuality, which, of course, stifles dialogues about sexual health for almost everyone at any age. To complicate matters, we also place a high social premium on youthfulness. So naturally, conversations about sex and aging represent the paragon of taboo in this country.
Just as our ability to read without glasses diminishes with age, our sense of balance also changes. The difference is that we treat the loss of balance as a disease and the cure we’re supposed to adopt is to turn homes and daily life into small hospitals.
Ashton Applewhite’s new book This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism is a wake-up call, especially for those who have the urge to make a difference while here, alive, and with the heart for change.
About eight years ago, Ashton Applewhite began interviewing people over 80 for a project called “So when are you going to retire?” It didn’t take her long to realize that almost everything she thought she knew about aging was wrong. So she wrote a book to set the record straight.
The tension between generations is indeed worth studying, but mostly as a red herring and a symptom of how aging has been reframed as a problem.
According to a growing body of research, the average lifespan of those with high levels of negative beliefs about old age is 7.5 years shorter than those with more positive beliefs. In other words, ‘ageism’ may have a cumulative harmful effect on personal health.
Anyone who fights ageism by working hard to understand its internal or external character is, first and foremost, the practitioner of a noble craft. Like acting, it takes experience and perseverance to hone one’s skills.