Let’s Start a Conversation About Ageism

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a glass of wine at a local wine bar and had a great conversation with two sisters.

They had an interesting life between the two of them. They told me about their marriages, divorces, children, travel, education, interests, and finally, that they were living together in the Bixby Knolls area.

I love siblings, especially close ones. I have a sister myself and felt I could relate to them on many levels. I was bummed when they left and mentioned to the young bartender how cool it was that they had each other.

The bartender responded that they were ‘cute’ and looked well put together for their age.
I didn’t know what to say. Her response felt like a slap in the face. I’m 48. The sisters were probably in their 60s.

I’m the first to admit that I used to see an older couple holding hands and think to myself ‘how cute.’ It’s not cute. Would it be ‘cute’ if you were seen holding hands with your significant other? Of course not. So why do we do this?

According to geropsychologists, although our older adult population is growing, society still has difficulty embracing the aging among us. Older adults far too often find themselves the victims of ageism, the stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age.

Elderspeak, infantilizing communication and another form of ageism, is similar to baby talk and includes simplified vocabulary as well as overly intimate terms of endearment. And research shows that may not only be insulting to many older adults, it can even negatively affect their health. So, choose your words wisely.

But there is hope!

According to WebMD’s 14 Things No One Tells You About Aging, getting older has its perks! My personal favorite is number 4, but you’ll have to check it out yourself at http://wb.md/2s7Asoh.

How do you feel about getting older? What do you think about older people? Have you experienced ageism? Let’s find out…

Dina Berg, MPA is the Executive Director and Founder of Heart of Ida and professor at California State University, Long Beach.

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