Ageism is Used as an Excuse for Anything and Everything by Bob Lowry
We don’t get that part time job we’d be good at because we are too old. Our doctor tells us we can’t engage in our favorite activity anymore, the knee joints won’t allow it. The television industry believes older folks aren’t attractive enough to advertisers to produce shows that match our tastes. Movies are too loud, too violent, too sex-filled, or too moronic to motivate us to trek to the theater. Some of our medical providers don’t listen to us; they already know what our problems are. These examples of ageism are real and hard to combat by ourselves.
However, there is another type of limitation based on age that is mostly self-generated. We tell ourselves we are too old to learn a new hobby, travel to a fascinating place on the other side of the globe, or go back to school and get the degree we’ve always wanted. It is too late to find new friends. Moving is too much work at our age.
I suggest that a lot of this negativity is in our head. We have convinced ourselves that it is too late to take a risk, too much trouble to fulfill a dream, too silly to attempt to achieve a long-term goal. Yet, history tells us exactly the opposite:
J.R.R. Tolkien published first volume of Lord of the Rings at 62.
Noah Webster finished his dictionary at 66.
Ed Whitlock became the oldest person to run a standard marathon at 69.
Katsusuke Yanagisawa climbed Mt. Everett at 71.
John Glenn became the oldest person to go into space at 77.
Nola Ochs became oldest person to receive a college degree at 95.
You get the point. For these folks, and millions more, age was nothing more than a number. It didn’t limit them, it didn’t control them, it certainly didn’t suggest they were past the point of doing something big or meaningful.
Most of us don’t have a Lord of the Rings waiting to be written, but we may have a burning desire to document our family history. Even fewer are willing to undergo the rigors of a marathon or climbing a 29,000 foot mountain. But, the 5K fun run or hiking through the mountain preserve in our town is very doable with a little practice and effort.
Engaging with people younger or older than we are can help widen our horizons and force us to think differently. Embracing some new technology, refusing to talk about “the good old days” and dwelling on the past certainly helps. A self-imposed sense of helplessness in certain situations becomes reality; if you think you can’t do or learn something, then you can’t.
Speak up when confronted with a comment or generalization that puts you in a certain age-defined box. “She’s 80 and still taking online classes,” or “Can you believe he’s 68!” Politely, but firmly, reject such age-based comments when they directed at either you or someone you know.
I found an excellent resource for recognizing and rejecting age-based comments or generalizations. Be sure to read this article all the way through. There are examples I would have never thought of as hurtful or condescending.
Ageism is a rather new phenomenon that has been allowed to infect our thinking and our society. If we aren’t the ones to point out its limitations and hurtfulness, then who is?
By Bob Lowry