There’s a strange pattern here. We’re surprised by young people who display what we consider to be the kind of sophistication and wisdom that we associate only with experience and age, as well as by elders who display the physical stamina, prowess, and productivity of people decades younger. It’s as if to be young means only to be strong and to be old means only to be wise.
Every time we assign the sole responsibility of aging well to an individual, we disregard that person’s uniqueness in a very unrealistic and unjust way. Each of us has gone through a combination of biological and socioeconomic experiences that have affected us at every turn.
Regardless of how we feel about our lives during the course of a previous year, the arrival of a new one has the potential to inspire us with hope and a desire for change –– in ourselves and in the world around us
Just as we are encouraged to believe those who report experiences of sexual harassment, so, too, should we believe older adults who report elder harassment in any of its forms. Ageism, too, is a spectrum of abuse. All of this is to say that harassment in any form, toward any person, and for any reason should not be justified or tolerated.
As a social gerontologist, community educator, and writer, I am passionate about explaining how language affects –– in good or bad ways –– our perceptions of aging, and vice versa.
“He won’t change. What do you expect? He’s a 71-year-old man.” Lately I’ve been hearing this comment, or some version of it, on various cable and mainstream news programs, always referring to a certain Leader of the Free World / Commander in Chief / Current Inhabitant of the Oval Office.
Ashton Applewhite, activist and author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, recently delivered an 11-minute barn-burning TED Talk called “Let’s End Ageism” that is the clearest and most concise, entertaining, and impactful introduction to the scourge of ageism I’ve ever heard.
Is there such a thing as “elder wisdom” or is this concept a mere stereotype and illusion?