17 Jan DEI Committee Update 1-5-2023
Ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.
Ageism affects everyone. Children as young as 4 years old become aware of their culture’s age stereotypes. From that age onwards they internalize and use these stereotypes to guide their feelings and behavior towards people of different ages. They also draw on culture’s age stereotypes to perceive and understand themselves, which can result in self-directed ageism at any age. Ageism intersects and exacerbates other forms of disadvantage including those related to sex, race and disability.
Ageism is everywhere: from our institutions and relationships to ourselves. For example, ageism is in policies that support healthcare rationing by age, practices that limit younger people’s opportunities to contribute to decision-making in the workplace, patronizing behavior used in interactions with older and younger people, and in self-limiting behavior, which can stem from internalized stereotypes about what a person of a given age can be or do.
Implicit ageism refers to thoughts, feelings, and judgements that operate without conscious awareness and automatically produce in everyday life. These may be a mixture of positive and negative thoughts and feelings, but they “tend to be mostly negative”. Age-based stereotypes prime one to draw very different conclusions when one sees an older and a younger adult with, say, back pain or a limp. One might well assume that the younger person’s condition is temporary and treatable, following an accident, while the older person’s condition is chronic and less susceptible to intervention. Managers have been accused as stereotyping older workers as being resistant to change, not creative, cautious, slow to make judgments, lower in physical capacity, uninterested in technological change, and difficult to train.
Ageism has a damaging effect on younger people as well. Dismissing younger workers as too inexperienced, unprofessional, or not qualified for advancement are examples of how ageism can hold younger people back. When asked to describe younger workers, some of the most common terms to come to mind in studies were negative, including “entitled,” “coddled,” “radical,” and “disrespectful.”
Ageism can change how we view ourselves, can erode solidarity between generations, can devalue or limit our ability to benefit from what younger and older populations can contribute, and can impact our health, longevity and well-being while also having far-reaching economic consequences. For example, ageism is associated with earlier death (by 7.5 years), poorer physical and mental health, and slower recovery from disability in older age. Ageism also increases risky health behaviors, such as eating an unhealthy diet, drinking excessively or smoking, and reduces our quality of life. In the United States, one in every seven dollars spent on health care every year for the eight most expensive conditions was due to ageism (US$ 63 billion in total).
Three strategies work in reducing or eliminating ageism: policy and law, educational activities and intergenerational interventions. Policy and law can address discrimination and inequality on the basis of age and protect the human rights of everyone, everywhere. Educational activities can enhance empathy, dispel misconceptions about different age groups and reduce prejudice by providing accurate information and counter-stereotypical examples. Intergenerational interventions, which bring together people of different generations, can help reduce intergroup prejudice and stereotypes.
Source: World Health Organization