How to overcome the devastating scourge of ageism 66



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Carol was a 62-year-old employee who had been with a major corporation for 20 years. New management came into the company and she started receiving veiled threats and intimidation. The pressure was on for her to lift her game and doing things “the new way”. Carol had a great deal of confidence in her abilities, however, in time it was obvious that the management was pushing her to retire. Both her physical and emotional health suffered and she decided it was not longer worth staying; she retired.

The story of Carol is not at all unusual. Carol was experiencing ageism which means discriminating or stereotyping based on age. While this can apply to any age, it is a big problem with older individuals. Ageism doesn’t just appear in the workplace; it is prevalent in many areas of life and how the young view the ageing population. The problem is not just with how others view the older generation but it is also an issue within seniors themselves.

External ageism

We live in an age that glorifies the young. Narcissism is rampant with “selfies” and other forms of self-indulgence. The entertainment industry promotes this through its music and movies. There aren’t that many movies that revere people over 60. It’s not unusual to find movies that show the aged as dithering, demented and slow. The mass media keeps perpetuating this image of older folk.

Ageism is often reflected in how the young look upon the older folk. A common example is giving up a seat on a bus or train. While it is courteous, it also reflects the image that older people somehow are so weak that they cannot stand on a bus trip. We have experienced this ourselves even though we are reasonably fit.

There is also the assumption that older people are slow, not with it and even suffering dementia when they are not. It is an attitude that belittles and treats the elderly in a child-like manner. While there are seniors who need assistance and suffer from dementia, assuming that all the elderly are this way is categorizing and putting people in a box.

One area where ageism rears its head ugly head is in the area of sexuality. Just enter into a discussion about sex with the younger crowd and invariably you get a disgusted cringeworthy reaction. Somehow our children seem to believe that sex disappears after 50. Little do they know!


Self-imposed ageism

There is an old saying by Mahatma Gandhi, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”. How can we change the perception of others – notably the younger generation – if we have negative perceptions of ourselves. In speaking to seniors and baby boomers, we find a significant number who act as if they are victims of their age. Yes, there are seniors who can put limits on ourselves.

Recently we were at a function where we met someone from university days. We couldn’t believe how much she had aged even though she is the same age as we are. We suggested that she get up and dance with us, and her response was, “I couldn’t do that”. Our attitudes and thoughts in life have a great deal to do with our physical appearance. Just look at someone who is depressed; their shoulders are hunched and often their face has a gloomy appearance.

Our experience has been that when we lead through our actions, others will follow. In other words, if seniors want to overcome the scourge of ageism they need to get out front and lead by being inspirational. There are many individuals who are doing this. Take the example of Robert Marchand, who is a 102-year-old cyclist or Lynn Miller, who started doing Stand-Up comedy at the age of 70. They are defying the typical viewpoint that people have of the older generation.

So get inspired and find your passion. When you do what you love and love what you do, you will radiate your enthusiasm for life and others will follow. Ageism will no longer be in your vocabulary.


Share your thoughts below.

Dr Ely Lazar and Dr Adele Thomas

  1. You refer to a younger person giving up a seat on a bus to an older person as seeing them as weak. I disagree! This used to be a sign of respect for your elders and had nothing to do with weakness. Its very rare for this to happen now however and I see it as a lack of respect on behalf of the younger generation. Or are we just invisible to them?

    3 REPLY
    • I’ve given up my bus seat to a young mum with a toddler and baby and a frail older man. It often isn’t about age but their need being greater than yours. Just consideration and respect.

    • Barbara Easthope I agree. My sons fiancee suffers from Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. To look at her you would think there is nothing wrong with her. She is in constant pain and standing for long periods of time is agony. She should have a walking stick but she is fighting it. She is 21. I would stand to let her sit. Looks can be deceptive.

    • Yes Debbie I used to feel so embarrassed at 5’10” walking with my aged 5’2″ mother around supermarkets with her pushing the trolley, but she needed it for support and would not have been able to walk far without it.

  2. My son thinks I’m old enough that I should go to an aged care facility, just because I had been ill recently, not a permanent illness. I studied and got a Uni degree since I turned sixty, I walk nearly every day, I had a full time job up until last year, I am learning tai chi, do weight training every day and am off to Fiji on my own for Christmas. Next year I am planning to go to Italy for a year. Ageism is a state of someone else’s mind! I’m 62.

    17 REPLY
    • I am desperately saving to go on a cruise at xmas next year. And I’ll be traveling alone. People say I am too old to do this but I will prove them all wrong.

    • Fran Spears unfortunately you have reared one of the very people that this subject is about… My mother is 96 and she still lives at home where we want her to be…

    • The funny thing is, everyone of these young people (if they are lucky) will get old themselves…..ahhhh Karma love it…

    • Fran your son sounds very selfish, thank goodness my daughters are not like that. Fran you just keep doing what you are doing and enjoy your holiday to Fiji plenty of friendly people if they see somebody by themselves will ask you yo join them, as for Italy will be wonderful where they respect older people and are very family orientated. You have a very full life keep it up don’t listen to the knockers

    • I too would love to go on a cruise Ruth. Have you checked out the single suppliment ? It’s usually about double of what twin share is. If you know anything better, could you let me know.

    • You’re still a chick!! Go for it! I went and lived in China teaching English when I was 58. I felt like a teenager! !

    • Antoinette Ray Rogers
      I am currently searching. I don’t like the thought of having to pay the single supplement . I’m also looking into whether or not it is discrimination because of martial status. But doubt they would accept that.

    • Ruth I got a tentative quote on a 6 day cruise around the UK, it was $1,179 twin share and nearly double that single suppliment 🙁 … please let me know how you go.

    • Go Fran and Ruth!! Old these days is mid 80s I think and, if I ever make that age I may not think that!! Enjoy your time.

    • I went on a cruise last year girls. I was in a cabin on my own as my friend decided not to go. I was lucky because she had booked and cancelled at the last minute. I didn’t have to pay the extra. PO cruises and other ship lines do charge extra if you are a lone traveller, but apparently not double price like they used to anymore. Some cruise lines also advertise special prices for single travellers for didn’t cruises.

    • Antoinette Ray Rogers I believe there are single cruises. I am sure I read about them on another over 60 page.

  3. Sadly this lady was bullied into retirement, this behaviour is unexceptable at any age and I’m dissapointed she wasn’t able to seek support in the workplace, a great example of poor management skills.

  4. I left work partly because I was told I was impeding capable young people advancing. After years of carrying out training and business analyst tasks, I was informed my job was ending and I would be given a lower level job to do but even then I would be impeding the progress of one of my younger colleagues and would I like to transfer from South Australia to Tasmania. I didn’t really like the old job anyway so it was easy to make the decision to go, but it wasn’t a great feeling being shelved so a young star could take my job to advance further up the greasy pole.

    2 REPLY
    • Often happens when there is a merge – whether it be departments or another company. I found when there was a merge of depts within the place I worked for, with the other dept supervisor staying, there was definite descrimination of us. A few left including me and I put it all in my exit interview. I love the last part of your comment Barbara – ‘advance further up the greasy pole’ – I’ve never heard that one before.

  5. I knew a 63yr old that had worked at same company for many years he fought to keep his job but was bulldozed by new young managment who wanted all the older people gone…. He hung himself after being setup by a young person who wanted his job. after 40yrs of service he was fired for buying product for a friend on his account. out the door on the spot went home and ended his lfe. RIP

    4 REPLY
  6. My story is a little different – on three occasions, I was walked out from a company- still the same effects of change overs – was devastated each and every time – so much of who we are and what we believe we contribute felt so inadequate. Never again would I allow any position make me feel that way. Sixty is the new forty and I am an Entrepreneur- and I love it – I’m mentoring, helping others get started, learning new and wonderful things everyday – We have experience on our side

  7. Who wants to work with and for people like that? Don’t worry the penny will drop with the younger workers and they won’t be feeling loyal to a company they see bully people out of a job. Loyalty is a two way street.

  8. How do we overcome this issue? By being the best we can be regardless of age. Being indespensible has its rewards.

  9. Ruth Hourigan, it really gives me the pip when people who are younger, tell me I am too old to do something. Good grief , if I am , its up to me to discover this for myself. I love travelling alone, I love taking road trips.

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