Vail Daily column: Let’s put a stop to ‘ageism’
Many of us are all too aware of certain “isms.” Sexism, for example, is focused on biased opinions or discrimination based on gender. Racism is discrimination against a person based on skin color.
These are two of the many directions that discrimination can be categorized, and yet they are significantly different than ageism in two areas. First, ageism is limited by your age whereas sexism and racism are there from birth. Second, we will all experience ageism. So, let’s take a closer look at today’s increasingly poignant discrimination: ageism.
Unfortunately, Western culture views aging with far less reverence than many European cultures. We see death as something to be feared, not as an event that is part of life. With that attitude we see older folks as representing death, and thus negative. Also, as one can readily see from advertising in this part of the world that youth is revered and aging is looked down upon. We focus on perfect bodies, athletic ability and economically upward mobile people — older folks don’t fit with that. Frequently our society sees only young and middle aged adults as productive, whereas children and seniors are seen as not contributing to the economic growth of our society. And this position may be increasing as the baby boomers come of age and the aging population increases in size over the next several decades.
Yet, there may be hope. For example, as the boomers enter into old age, they may bring with them their zest for life. They currently exercise more than any other segment of the adult population. They eat better, and they want to fight aging more vigorously than any previous generation.
Yet, as positive as this is, society as a whole is still viewing aging as a negative concept. Boomers are fighting the aging process more than others who walked that line before them, and there has still been little movement in attitudes toward death. The aging population still views death as an end to a wonderful life and not as a means to moving on to our afterlife.
Many other cultures view aging as having obtained a higher status. In the Middle East, when men reach old age they have achieved a level of prestige. Many Eastern societies see aging as a part of a continuous life and death process.
We all have a vested interest in eliminating ageism. The methods to achieve this goal may not be as clear-cut. It may take several generations to overcome, but the benefit of such efforts would be recognized when we embrace our elders for their ability to transfer knowledge and experience.
Few would argue with the positive results of our attempts, albeit a slow process, to eliminate racism and in the efforts to reduce sexism. “Isms” are negative and generally tear apart our society. We need to work at reducing their effects on future generations by dispelling their illogical basis. Ageism is no different than sexism or racism.
We will all benefit from such an attitudinal change as we become older and take the place of our parents.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visiting angels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.