We’ve all heard of racism and sexism – both of which are ugly forms of discrimination against certain members of society. However, one of the uglier ‘isms’ that we don’t hear much about is ageism.

What is ageism?

Ageism is the stereotyping of and discrimination against a person or a group of people due to their age. The term was first introduced in 1969 by US gerontologist Robert N. Butler to refer to discrimination against senior citizens. The definition of ageism was patterned after those of racism and sexism.

What are the different degrees of ageism?

Dr. Butler theorized that there were three ways that ageism is inflicted upon the elderly members of society. The first way is negative attitudes and preconceived notions about the elderly and the aging process in general. The second is discriminatory practices against the senior population and the third is institutional practices and policies that encourage the stereotyping of seniors.

How is ageism demonstrated in society?

Ageism is demonstrated in a number of different ways, some of which may be oblivious to the perpetrator. Implicit ageism is the most common way it is demonstrated. It has to do with simple things like speaking loudly and slowly when conversing with a senior with the assumption that they can’t hear or understand because they are ‘old’. Stereotyping sometimes happens unconsciously as well. Many people associate certain things with the aging process. Things like limps, aches, and pains or using speaking a certain way are all ways that stereotyping occurs when these things are associated with ‘being old‘. Prejudice is the most blatant form of ageism. It is demonstrated when people have a strong dislike to the elderly population because of certain stereotypes. When people refer to seniors in a derogatory way, calling them bad drivers, slow walkers, loud talkers – all of these are prejudices. Discrimination deals with drawing a conclusion that a person cannot perform a certain job, task, or function just because of their age, without taking any other skills or abilities into consideration. In fact, ageism among the elderly is so prevalent that medical science has identified a brand new phobia associated with it. Gerontophobia is the fear of elderly people!

How does ageism affect the elderly?

As with any other form of prejudice or discrimination, ageism can have detrimental effects a person’s self-esteem and overall well-being. The elderly are more susceptible to the ill effects of such discrimination than the general population because most of them already have low self-esteem and are emotionally fragile due to the number of life

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