Ageism: A Prejudice That Runs Deep

© 2019 Brenda Dineen | Reprinting permission with credit to author


“Know that you are the perfect age. Each year is special and precious, for you shall only live it once. Be comfortable with growing older.”
– Louise Hay

How life would be different in our world if each of us was comfortable with growing older. Just imagine, no pressure to be anything different from what you are right now. No need to deny your age. And celebrating whatever stage of life you are in right now. And each stage of life is honoured and valued. Perhaps we will be living like this in the future.

Your soul does not age. Your body does. We all grow older. All of life on our planet ages and changes.

When the Baby Boomers were young, age 30 was considered ‘old’. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” was a mainstream slogan when we were in our youth. After all, we were young, we were huge in numbers and we felt like we could take on the world. Imagine, 30 seemed old and untrustworthy. Until we turned 30 ourselves. Our generation grew up with a very strong ‘youth mindset’.

I remember my grandmother when she was 70. She was considered ‘old’ and at that age people were not expected to do much more. They were expected to decline. And not make much contribution. Life was all downhill from there. Widely-held expectations have always played a significant role in how we age.

Ageism is the most tolerated form of social prejudice. There are other forms of discrimination such as racism and sexism. These are frequently called out and named in mainstream media and politics. Ageism feels like there is something in the air that is uncomfortable but is never named.

There is widespread discrimination against older people. Just think about the word ‘old’. Old has a connotation of being useless, worn out, cast aside, something to be discarded. An old car. An old appliance. Old shoes. What about an old person? People don’t want to be labelled ‘old’.

There are many disparaging comments and words directed to older people “He’s over the hill” ‘She is a little old lady” “I’m having a senior moment”. So many words are condescending to older people, diminishing their value. These comments and attitudes are common. Why do we tolerate discrimination based on age?

One day my sister Claire took our mother to a restaurant. When the waitress came to the table she took Claire’s order, then she looked past Mum and asked Claire, “What does your mother want?” As if Mum could not speak up for herself. This kind of behaviour is quite common, making an assumption that an older person can’t express herself.

Many people begin to feel invisible as they age. Not acknowledged. Passed by. So many people in their older years feel they no longer have a purpose.

Our society is so obsessed with youth, that it can be a challenge to escape these pressures. We put a lot of stock in youth and youthful appearance. But the value is not for the soul, but for the youthful body and the youthful look. We are so immersed in ageism that we don’t even notice it is all around us.

We tend to deny aging. 60 is not the new 40. When we recognize the stage of life we are at, we can embrace what it holds for us: opportunities to learn and grow. Having a purpose that is meaningful is possible at every stage in life.

We have lost sight of the value of aging. Our judgments and preconceived ideas get in the way of seeing the truth in people. Each stage of life is a gift. For those who are retired, these years can be the best time of your life. If you keep physically fit and mentally sharp, you can accomplish new things. Instead of resisting the aging process, you can actually welcome and enjoy each new stage in life.

Try practicing these few exercises in the weeks ahead:

• Celebrate whatever stage of life you are in right now.

• Notice if you judge yourself or others as being old.

• Go out of your way to greet those who may be feeling invisible.

• Honour yourself and others equally, regardless of age.

If we don’t recognize our own value, and the value of those who are in their older years, where do we look for wisdom? Who are the wisdom-keepers and where are they? Our society needs to acknowledge and honour elders. Wisdom-keepers hold the depth of soul and experience.

Perhaps a big shift in letting go of ageism will begin with the current Baby Boomers. Our generation has always felt full of optimism, confident that we could change the world. We have always been innovators. Maybe we can take on this issue and begin to transform it in our time. Let’s liberate ourselves from outdated beliefs that restrict how we see ourselves and everyone else.

Warm wishes,


“Helping you navigate through the second half of life with clarity, vision and purpose”

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