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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

Ageism Is Alive & Well

Listen to my interview with author and activist Ashton Applewhite, which will be available on February 2. You'll get a handle on why ageism is the last major "ism" in the culture worldwide.

Discrimination based on a person's age is everywhere. In magazines, on TV, in mixed social events, and in the workplace . . .

Oh, and let's not forget the ageism between our ears. Consider how often you (and your friends) attach age to something about yourself or about someone else. "She looks young for her age." "I think dementia is creeping up on me." "She's too old for the job." And on and on it goes.

Before we can make a difference in the movement against ageism, we need to consider our own attitudes. We need to take a moment when we use the words old and young. What stereotypes are we perpetuating?

As Applewhite was doing research for her book, This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, she, too, had been convinced that aging was dreadful and that sooner or later, most of us would end up in a nursing home or, worse yet, in a memory care facility because we had become shells of our younger selves. "Our fears," she writes, "are way out of proportion to the reality, and that anxiety itself is bad for our health."

  • When Ashton wrote her book, only one in ten people over 65 developed serious mental incapacities like dementia or Alzheimer's.

  • The assumption that many/most older people are unhappy, even depressed, is another myth. Study after study shows that we are happiest at the beginning and end of our lives.

  • "If you think life sucks now, just wait because the longer you live, the worse it will get." Yes, all of us will lose people we love as we age, and at least one body part will not function well or properly. But older people are resilient and can figure out ways to work with these challenges.

  • And on and on it goes. Pick up a copy of This Chair Rocks, and I promise you'll be happily surprised by the facts about aging.

When I asked Ashton what each of us can do to help combat ageism and create an age-friendly world, she had a lot to say. It takes courage to stand up and challenge what others say and do. A perfect example is when someone looks you up and down and, as I said earlier, exclaims, "Wow, you don't look your age!"

So, here's a suggestion: Ask the person what he/she means by what she said. Did she mean that most older people look old and that looking old is a bad thing, something we want to avoid at all costs?

This happened to me the other day as I was checking out at TJMax. I was asked for my birth date to ensure I had an account. (I'd left my charge card at home.) To be truthful, I have always taken "You don't look your age" as a compliment, as if looking younger is a good thing, as if my genes, facials, diet, and exercise have worked wonders. The self-care that we women are sold is magical. (Self-care is a subject for another blog AND, here I go again. You can listen to Episode 8 of "Older Women & Friends" as guest Nancy Colier explores the difference between self-care from the outside and from the inside out.)

Well, this time, I decided to ask a simple question, "What do you mean by that?" I said it in a neutral tone so I wouldn't make her even more uncomfortable, The sales clerk looked at me, bewildered. She stammered something intelligible and went back to scanning a pair of pants. She didn't say a word. I hope she thought about her comment and came up with her ageist response. How are older women supposed to look, anyway? Wrinkles? Loose skin? Sagging stomachs? Hell yes! These are all expressions of lives lived, and experiences gained.

There are a bunch of other podcasts, groups, and meetings for women to understand how they and others are ageists and what they can do to change things up. Another repository for everything you'll ever want to know, including how to start a conscious-raising event. I highly recommend that you check out the following:

I know I have a lot of work to do, but I'm up for the challenge. You?

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Jan 21, 2023

Jane, I get that comment also - "You don't look that old". I'm going to try your reply the next time someone says that to me....wonder what kind of an answer I'll get??

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