Life doesn’t take a dramatic spin the second a person turns a certain age, nor does it evolve at the same pace for each individual. So why has stereotyping and discrimination against people based on their age become such a widespread issue throughout our country?
The assumptions surrounding aging need to be challenged.
According to a report produced by Revera and the International Federation on Aging, ageism is the most tolerated form of social prejudice in Canada. Our society has an overall negative perception of aging, but why is this?
At times, I myself have felt fearful of growing older and apparently I’m not alone. According to the Revera report, nearly 90 per cent of Canadians relate ageing with something negative, with Gen Y and Gen X having the most pessimistic outlook.
I question where this fear surrounding age has originated from and wonder if it stems from a variety of societal pressures.
Why is there such pressure to accomplish all of life’s goals before the age of 30? Why do individuals encounter judgement from others when they declare they’re not in a rush to achieve this or that?
“Do it before you get too old,” they say, but rarely, “you can do it when you get old.” Perhaps our outlook needs a serious adjustment.
We have let the long-standing stereotypes associated with age significantly influence what it means to get older. Loss of physical attractiveness, decline in mental capacity and loss of independence are just a few of the negative associations we have made with age.
Why have we let these things become a part of the definition of what it means to get older? Improvements and deteriorations in physical function, mental capacity and financial stability can be experienced by individuals of all ages. Life at 65 can carry the same potential for fulfillment as life at 25, but it’s all about perspective.
The good news is that as we get older we are more likely to acknowledge the reality that our age does not define us. It has been found that those of an older age are actually more likely to view age as just a number.
During a recent visit with my grandma, I realized that she is an individual who has proven this point over and over again.
At 82-years-old she has no qualms about going for a horseback ride or jumping on her ski-doo the minute a good snowfall occurs. She points out that what really has an impact on her capabilities is her state of health, which can be affected at any age.
According to the opinions of Canadians, there are specific actions that need to be taken in order to combat age discrimination.
Investment in technologies that can help older people live independently for longer is an important part of this fight against age discrimination. Increased government funding of healthcare solutions that can address the needs of our aging population is another one of the ideas brought forth. Most importantly, it is believed that awareness needs to raised about ageism in order for it to no longer be socially acceptable.
Despite society’s preoccupation with attaining everlasting youthfulness, it is important to acknowledge that ageism doesn’t discriminate. This prejudice is also faced by the young.
How many times have I heard someone declare that those of the younger generations lack work ethic or drive? For many of us, these existing stereotypes could not be farther from the truth.
Many people hold on tightly to their preconceived notions regarding age, but these assumptions need to be confronted.
It is time to open our eyes and refuse to tolerate ageism as we have in the past. We cannot allow a simple number to impact our views and values any longer.
Graphic: Cody Schumacher/Graphics Editor