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Ageism as a form of discrimination

by | Sep 20, 2021 | Elder Law |

Discrimination based on age (“ageism”) is usually not viewed with the same seriousness as other forms, such as racism and sexism.  However, demographics show that 42% of the United States’ population is over the age of 45.  On average, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day.  Unfortunately, ageism is real and can have a negative impact on many aspects of an individual’s life.

The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination on the basis of age in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. The Act, which applies to all ages, permits the use of certain age distinctions and factors other than age that meet the Act’s requirements. The Age Discrimination Act is enforced by the Civil Rights Center.

Being aware of ageism can help you or a loved one to avoid falling victim to discriminatory practices. Following are some examples:

Dismissive behavior

A common tactic people use when it comes to older people is to dismiss them and assume they cannot make a meaningful contribution. Younger people may feel older people cannot compete in today’s world because they are not as tech-savvy or understand how things work now. Dismissive behavior is essentially saying an older person does not matter and is unacceptable.

Negative stereotypes

Stereotypes are often quite damaging. When it comes to older people, they can be hurtful and hold a person back. You may not have the same opportunities as younger people due to these stereotypes. For example, if someone stereotypes you as weak and helpless, they may not want to hire you for a job or allow you to join an organization.

Impact on health

As an elder law attorney, I have personally witnessed medical personnel speak “past” the patient. Although the patient may be competent, they address the patient’s status with everyone else in the room, ignoring the patient. Not only is this disrespectful, but it’s also unethical and illegal.  There’s this notion of “protecting” the elderly from information regarding his or her condition. Ageism can impact your mental and physical health. Depression can often start due to ageism. You may end up being less physically active and start developing health issues. Ageism can also lead to problems with cognitive function.

Ageism is never acceptable. If you see it happening, you should speak out. Older generations were formerly revered for the knowledge and wisdom acquired through experience. It is up to the older individual to insist on respectful and equal treatment and will result in a wiser and more inclusive society.

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