Ageism is more than tacky greeting cards and geezer jokes. It’s a cultural stigma that threatens the health and well being of one of the largest, and most vulnerable, parts of our population. Jack Halpern recently wrote a powerful blog post at My Elder Advocate outlining the effects of ageism:
Not only are negative stereotypes hurtful to older people, but they may even shorten their lives, finds psychologist Becca Levy, PhD, assistant professor of public health at Yale University. In Levy’s longitudinal study of 660 people 50 years and older, those with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of aging. The study appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 2).
How prevalent is ageism? It can be argued that ageism is the last socially acceptable “ism”, or form of discrimination. Ageism pervades our media, workplaces and social interactions. The data reflects this:
A survey of 84 people ages 60 and older, nearly 80 percent of respondents reported experiencing ageism–such as other people assuming they had memory or physical impairments due to their age. The 2001 survey by Duke University’s Erdman Palmore, PhD, also revealed that the most frequent type of ageism–reported by 58 percent of respondents–was being told a joke that pokes fun at older people. Thirty-one percent reported being ignored or not taken seriously because of their age. The study appeared in The Gerontologist (Vol. 41, No. 5).
What can we do to combat ageism? Please share your thoughts.