All of us begin to age from the moment we are born. Over time we age in our own way, in our own time, chronologically and biologically. Often people look and feel younger (or sometimes older) than what their ages really are.
Unfortunately, other countries show more respect and compassion towards elders than we do in the United States. Seniors in other societies occupy honored roles as sages, leaders, judges, guardians of traditions, and mentors to young people.
Americans are improving but, until recently, our society overall has exhibited many signs of ageism, which is prejudice or discrimination against the elderly. We often make assumptions about older adults that are not based on facts, just what was heard or seen before.
Ageism in the U.S. is evident in many arenas:
- Negative media portrayals of older adults, both in news stories and the arts such as TV and movies.
- Negative attitudes toward seniors which may translate into rude and disrespectful behavior.
- Making the elderly “invisible.” For example, being afraid to look into a person’s eyes who is sitting in a wheelchair.
- Employment discrimination, especially because people are now working way beyond what used to be the normal retirement age of 65.
How Can We Change Ageism?
Assured In-Home Care advocates for older adults in everything we do. Our professional care staff suggests these action steps to help reduce ageism and create a culture of compassion:
Talk about instances of ageism when you notice it around you, whether in the media or if they occur right in front of you.
Experience some of the physical limitations of older adults. There are sensitivity training programs, such as Xtreme Aging, which simulate what it’s like to be elderly. They are used in many nursing and medical training hospitals as well as the corporate world. You can find online instructions about how to create a simpler do-it-yourself version for use in homes or schools.
Volunteer at senior centers, skilled nursing facilities, and/or hospitals. Initiate support and communication with the elders you meet there.
Commit to increasing awareness by spending time with someone you know who is aging. Pay attention when you do. The best classroom is at the foot of a senior. Think about what your life story will be when you are 70, 80, or 90 years old.
Awareness and education is are keys to decreasing ageism and increasing respect for our wonderful seniors. Learn to be sensitive and empathize with challenges and limitations inherent to aging. Don’t you want your aging loved ones (and yourself) to be treated with compassion and respect at all times?