Age Separation: Volunteering Can Bridge the Gap

For the first time in U.S. history, people sixty and over now outnumber those 18 and younger. Yet we still live in a youth-centric culture that reinforces the separation of people based on age. Separation in the Workplace, in Our Neighborhoods and in Schools  Research suggests that workers over fifty have more than a 50% chance of being pushed out of their jobs before they are ready to leave. Hiring language like “energetic” and “enthusiastic” signal that certain workplaces belong to the young. Neighborhoods tend to be separated by age with “six in 10 leaning either young or old.”  We…

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Creating Community Conversations

In November, I applied for an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project. I wanted to bring groups together around a common topic as a way to address stereotypes based on age. I did get an interview and drove Portland (about three hours north from where I live) to participate. The three younger women who conducted the interview were great. A couple of weeks later, I learned my project proposal wasn’t selected. Nonetheless, the experience was very positive. I also realized I could develop my own conversation projects. Age Stereotyping Conversation Last night I spoke to a community group of older women (mostly…

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Communicating Age Stereotyping through Elderspeak

  What is Elderspeak? Elderspeak is a form of ageism or stereotyping based on age. It is a particular way some younger adults speak to older adults. For example, someone using elderspeak might use a ‘singsong’ tone, or speak louder and talk more slowly when interacting with an older adult. Or, they might use simple vocabulary as though talking with a young child and combine it with patronizing terms like “dearie” or “sweetie” or using “we” rather than “you” when asking a question. I live in a rural community were terms of endearment such as “honey” or “sweetie” are frequently…

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Generational Differences and Mutual Respect

I hadn’t noticed that a huge generational shift had taken place until I was in my early 50s and interviewing for a new job. Because of the background I could bring to positions that interested me and because I had strong interview skills, I always assumed that I had a good shot at most jobs for which I was appropriately qualified. But then everything changed. When I applied for a full-time teaching position in communication, younger people on interview panels weren’t all that interested in hiring me. It wasn’t until I met with an interview panel in a rural area…

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Ageism is Common and Costly

The World Health Organization indicates that ageism—or stereotyping and discrimination based on age—is the most socially acceptable form of prejudice on the planet. Because ageism does or will affect all of us, it is important that we recognize it and know how to deal with it.Ageism isn’t a Laughing Matter.I recently spoke to a local civic group about ageism and shared a story that many were quickly able to recognize as stereotyping based on age. My story was about an experience I had when I was in my early forties. I was a graduate research assistant at Portland State University.…

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Petspeak or Elderspeak: Is There a Difference?

Is there a difference between petspeak and elderspeak? That's what I was thinking about this week. I had just parked my car in a parking lot at Washington Square Shopping Mall near Portland, Oregon. I happened to be with a friend at the time. As my friend and I got out of the car, we noticed a grey-haired woman gently lifting a little poodle from the back of her mini-van. The woman cooed at her dog and used ‘petspeak’ saying something like, “There you go my sweet little precious.” My friend and I looked at each other while trying to…

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We’re a Diverse Group: Stereotyping Us is a Mistake

  In Oregon where I live, the fastest growing age group in the next ten years is projected to be people who are seventy or older.  Our nation and our globe are experiencing a dramatic demographic shift as our overall population is getting older. Yet, we're a diverse group, and stereotyping us is a mistake! We are More Than Our Age What amazes me is that there are still people who look at those over fifty and simply see a wave of grey. We’re so much more than our age. We’re a diverse population. It is true that as some…

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