While broader public conversations about the negative effects of discrimination continue to grow in momentum and influence, one area that often goes unmentioned is the phenomenon of ageism.
Ageism refers to how we think, feel and act towards ourselves and others due to age. Ageism can often feel harmless because of how common phrases like “an old dog can’t learn new tricks” are used in casual conversation, but a moment of consideration reveals how these concepts can prevent others from achieving their full potential.
Fortunately, non-profit Reframing Aging is addressing the issue of ageism through organizational training and recommendations on how to make conversations about different generations less divisive and dismissive.
Why address ageism?
Ageism reduces the worth of an individual based on their age, discounting the value of people who may be deemed too old or too young to contribute to broader society. While this can have serious impacts on individual success in a professional context, it presents an even greater hazard towards mental and physical health, decreasing a person’s self-worth or potentially impacting medical care.
What can be done?
Reframing Aging offers a helpful guide outlining eight ways we talk about aging that can impact how we think about older adults and reinforce negative stereotypes around age. By changing how we talk about the subject of age, Reframing Aging seeks to change how we perceive other generations for the better.
Reframing Aging’s recommendations include:
- Using language that is inclusive and free of age bias: Much prior dialogue around aging tends to use “other-ing” terms that carry negative connotations, like “elderly” and “senior citizen.”
Instead, Reframing Aging recommends using words like “older adults” or “older person,” which preserve a connection between generations and acknowledge that all of us are aging together.
- Highlight the diversity that exists in older populations: Traditionally, individuals aged 65 and older are treated as a monolith in casual conversation, aggregating 40 or more years of life into a single group. Doing so ignores the massive span of health, social, and financial statuses and conditions experienced by this massive population.
To combat this oversimplification, Reframing Aging recommends being as specific as possible when talking about age ranges and choosing to talk about age when it is relevant to a conversation.
- Talk affirmatively about changing demographics: As lifespans increase, many writers and professionals tend to use catastrophic terms to discuss the world’s changing demographics. Doing so can encourage pessimism, fatalism, and ultimately inaction when it comes to addressing the needs of older generations.
Rather than using these negatively-charged terms when talking about the subject, Reframing Aging urges us to rethink how we speak about these changes, highlighting the positive implications of people living healthier, longer lives and increasing the chances for intergenerational exchange.
As a home health care agency, SelectCare strives to promote the independence, dignity, and health of our clients and promote a more equitable world for older adults. In that effort, we see Reframing Aging as a valuable ally who can take a fresh look at long-held habits and point out how we can improve and promote a more inclusive world for older adults.