The Pernicious Problem of Ageism

If you are not already part of a group disadvantaged by prejudice, just wait a couple of decades—you will be. Unlike all other prejudices, ageism is relevant to every person fortunate enough to make it beyond a sixth decade of life. Unlike the attention focused on other prejudices, however, ageism has been poorly studied and rarely confronted. Until recently, little was known about its origins and consequences.

The consequences of ageism influence how we are able to live the last third of our lives, and can even affect our life span. Individuals of advanced age are both under-treated and over-treated by our healthcare system (Palmore, 2001). Age limits our ability to be hired and re-hired after market downturns (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015), putting further economic pressure on the lives of older adults. Perceptions about older adults constrain the types of roles they assume in the community, limiting them as individuals and preventing communities from gaining the wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and energy from what some call our fastest growing natural resource (Greenya and Golin, 2008). At the extreme, ageism is believed to shorten our lives. One study reported that older adults who held negative views about old age faced life expectancies that were, on average, seven and a half years shorter than those of their peers (Levy et al., 2002).

– American Society on Aging

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