About four years ago, I read Ashton Applewhite’s This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism. That’s about the time I became keenly aware of how ageism was affecting my life and the lives of others around me.
Ageism or discriminatory or stereotypical treatment based on age has been linked to various health issues including depression, stress, and heart problems. It has also been associated with a shorter lifespan. In addition, it is estimated that ageist treatment costs Americans and an additional $63 billion per year in health costs. None of us should tolerate ageist treatment. (To read more about the effects of ageism, click here.)
I realized how important it was for my own well-being to push back when people dismissed me or treated me as though I was invisible. Today, when I tell people I am now 68, I feel a sense of empowerment. I’m not hiding, and I’m not pretending that I’m younger. I’m proud of who I am and who I am still becoming.
Organizing and Drawing Attention to the Problem
I have long been an advocate for positive views of aging. However, I realize now that my individual responses to ageist treatment or my efforts to share information with others about the harmful effects of ageism are not going to put a dent in an ageist culture.
I believe it is essential that those of us who are affected by ageist attitudes and treatment start organizing and coordinating our efforts. We will also need to bring the issue of ageism to the attention of those who have chosen to perpetuate it; we can be very effective at this when we speak with our pocketbooks. We can also educate others so that they become aware of what is happening.
Seeking Advocates and Activists
As for me, I am inviting others in my community to start working together to address ageism. Right now, I am looking for like-minded people who are willing to write, speak and advocate for positive aging. I’m also seeking those who still have a bit of activism blood running through their veins. Even a handful of people can have an impact. We can let different organizations know that we will not accept ageist attitudes in our community.
There are a lot more adults over 50 in my community than those who are younger. We also tend to have more discretionary income than younger people in the community. We are the ones that help support local businesses and other community organizations. Yet the degree of ageism in my community is appalling. We can do something about it. I’ll keep you posted.