Am I Ageist? Why it Matters

The expression “Ageism” was coined in 1969 by Dr. Robert Neil Butler to describe the discrimination against older adults; it was aptly patterned on “sexism” and “racism”. Our society’s worship of youth, its anxiety over wrinkles and gray hair is illustrative of ageism and is partially interwoven with our fear of death and our fear of dependency, dementia and deterioration on the journey towards our end-of-life.

Many people fall victim to ageism in old age by becoming prejudiced against themselves. They internalize negative stereotypes of aging contained in daily communication with others and it does serious damage to their health and well-being. Well-intended language like telling your grandmother or your client she is “young in spirit” is aged-based language and not complimentary. Instead think about what you really mean. For example, your client is “engaged”, “lively” and “energetic”. Words are powerful.

My sister Devon and I notice ageism in our work, our lives and the ongoing battles in government policies. In Long Term Care there seems to be a tendency to patronize older adults or conversely to be overly solicitous toward them. In our lives, people think Devon is older because her hair is silver while I mine remains dark brown. It’s amazing to see the look on someone’s face when they realize I’m six years older. They fell into the “silver hair” ageism trap and are surprised. The current political debate about Medicaid funding if actualized would lead to dangerous policies for America’s older adults and their families. The “Silver Tsunami” language describing Baby Boomers creates the idea that older adults are a burden to their families and society. This notion could not be further from the thinking of families with whom we work.

To answer my question, “Am I ageist?” Yes, growing up in this culture makes me fear dementia and some really dumb age-based remarks slip out before I can catch them! Old blog posts have age-based descriptions of people (i.e., senior).  It’s a challenge. Devon and I are working on our implicit bias by pointing it out to each other. We celebrate aging by creating cards to send to our community. We love creating each and the process keeps us on our toes with regard to ageist language. Growing older is not a choice that we have in life. It is going to happen and we are focusing on the benefits of getting older and remain positive. We think the cards take us in the right direction. Stay tuned.

And in closing!!! Call us at A WAY TO STAY Home Care. We happy to talk about your home care needs and point you in the right direction if we can’t help. A WAY TO STAY is a home care agency providing In-Home Care in Yardley – Newtown. We are Live-In Care Specialists.

August 7, 2017  One of my favorite bloggers about aging, Ronni Bennett (Time Goes By – What it’s really like to get old) writes succinctly about Ageism in Healthcare. It’s potent information.


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Our Contact Information:

A Way to Stay
1596 Quarry Road,
Yardley, PA 19067
(215) 321-5100

Better Business Bureau Accredited Business CQA Certified Bucks County Long Term Care Consortium One of the Best, 2016! Bucks County, Courier Times