January is upon us once again, and with the holiday madness in our rearview, the new year begins!
Something about the notion of having a whole new year ahead is both daunting and refreshing, but for many people, the new year inspires a pursuit of positive change. Call it a resolution, resolve, or personal test; taking on the challenge of self-improvement in the new year is always a good idea, so we here at Noble Companion wanted to use our monthly blog post this January to encourage people everywhere to make a resolution of combating ageism.
Ageism is the outcome of pre-existing prejudices, stereotypes, and discrimination directed at people due to their age.
While ageism exists for people of all ages, older adults are especially vulnerable. In fact, recent studies have found that upwards of 80% of surveyed people experience the negative effects of ageism every day. With such a profound section of the population dealing with this negative bias, working to combat ageism is a simple way of creating a more inclusive, understanding society in which everybody can feel valued for what they bring to the table. Taking time to consider how ageism might play a part in your day-to-day life can be done by simply engaging in self-reflection, and before you know it, you’ll be seeing ageism everywhere while becoming more capable of avoiding it in your own daily life.
The first step is related to that self-reflection idea that we mentioned in the paragraph above. This step involves thinking about your word choices and how you ascribe them to people. While there are far too many ageist phrases and words in common daily language to list here, it would be wise to keep an open mind as you go about your day and think back to your social interactions as you wind down before bed. Should you remember a discussion in which you fell to the fallacy of age bias, just keep it in mind moving forward and explore alternative wording that might be less negatively charged.
Another space in which a step can be taken to combat ageism is in the workplace. Ageist beliefs play a terrible role in American work culture and can cost people job opportunities and career growth if not remedied. Imagine you’re an older American looking for a new job, and you bring a wealth of experience and knowledge with you to the interview. You’re punctual, driven, and brimming with valuable knowhow that would benefit your team from day one, but you’re passed over because your hiring manager is worried about how long you’ll be on their team or if you’ll be able to work with new technologies in the future. Sadly, this hypothetical disaster is both common, and also federally illegal. For this reason, it is good practice to avoid including your age in on-boarding documents and come to the table ready to discuss why you are the correct fit for the role, regardless of how many trips around the sun you’ve taken in your life.
The third and final step that I’ll mention is centered around embracing the positives that the aging process can bring along with it. In a world that loves focusing on the negatives of aging, (and all the things they can sell you to help you “prevent” aging), the wealth of positives can be easily forgotten. Aside from general lived experience, aging brings with it wisdom of years past, social program benefits, discounts, broader access to services, and new social experiences. With a little research, you’ll find a wealth of new activities to try out and places to go where you can spend your time. Some folks find themselves with much more time when they get older as they no longer need to work in order to survive, and for these people, the opportunities are nearly endless. If you find yourself with more free time and you’re an older person who has experienced ageism, you can even join advocacy groups or volunteer opportunities, where you’ll have a first-hand opportunity to combat ageism and show people all the value that your presence can bring to the table.
Through our work with older populations, we here at Noble Companion have seen the extent to which ageism affects our community firsthand. At the same time, we understand very well how capable and important older adults are in our society. While we would love to be able to wish away ageism in our world, we know the remedy will never be that easy, so in the meanwhile, we will continue to do our part to make sure that our society grown into a place where all people are valued and welcomed, regardless of their age. If you wish to investigate ways that you can work to combat ageism, some of the links in our sources below will be able to point you in the right direction.
Here’s to an exciting, happy, and inclusive 2024!
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