Why Ageism is not like other “isms”? Ageism has now become the new hot ‘ism’ that people often overlook.
Some headlines are-
We need to combat Ageism just like we do Sexism (Huffington Post)
Ageism in the workplace ‘just as bad as racism’ (The Times UK)
It is a ‘bigger problem than racism or sexism’ (The Independent UK)
Ageism has become the social justice struggle just like sexism, and racism. It has one key difference from the other two. The difference that I want to tell is also the answer to the question which I asked in the beginning. It is different from the other because, at one point in time, everyone has or will be the offender, and at another point in time, everyone is or will be the victim of it.
You can get discriminated at any age, ageism is not just for old people. The people who have faced discrimination at a young age against their youth are the same who don’t hire someone younger than everyone else at the office.
We are the ones who accept the advertisement that shows old people incapable of doing anything. Ageism is negative discrimination against old people, people in their middle age, teenagers, and children. We should not accept the concept of treating others differently because of their age.
How is ageism a stereotype?
Ageism has now become a stereotype, prejudice against old people. In political candidacies, jobs, and cultural settings where young physical beauty is more substantial than the greater moral, righteous, or intellectual rigor of adulthood.
Though it’s getting recognition now, Ageism was first coined in 1619 by Robert Neil Butler. It has been referred by many great authors or poets in their poems and novels. For example, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, the great Victorian poet described ageism in his poem ‘Ulysses’ (1842).
The famous lines of Ulysses are –
“Old age hath yet his honor and his tail,
Death closes all but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note may yet be done.”
It means that the implicit thoughts, behaviour, and feeling one have for old or young people. This can be positive or negative thoughts, and feelings but the reports have found that it is mostly negative.
Stereotyping can be harmful when its content is incorrect, negative concerning most of the group. For example, stereotype thinking compelled one to draw an image of an old person and a younger adult, say, with back pain or a limp. One assumes that the younger one’s condition is by an accident, and can be treatable and is temporary while older one’s condition is due to his/her age, weak bones. This can be true. But many old people can recover quickly after the accident, while the young ones can become permanently disabled.
For instance, an old person forgets something, people will jump to a conclusion saying it a ‘senior moment’, and thus, failing to realize the ageism that lies in the statement. Elders do not realize the ageist undertone.
Erdman Palmore has accused his managers, as stereotyping old workers who are resistant to change, physically weak, not creative enough, difficult to train, etc.
Unlike sexism and racism, ageism is more resistant to change. Elders who deny the ageism theory, and live in independence, are happen to be healthier both mentally and physically in life than other people of their age, breaking the stereotype.
Digital Ageism means discrimination faced by older people in the digital world. The younger generation has the thinking of elders as incapable of understanding digitalization. Or assumes that they do not know how to use digital appliances. For instance, in a lockdown, every institution is now digitized, many parents do not know how to use smartphones that’s because maybe they never wanted to know, due to its negative effects, but it could be quick to assume, that they are old that’s why they don’t know technology. Ageism now has become more like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The term visual ageism came to light, in 2018, by Loos and Ivan. Its definition is, visually misrepresenting older people in social practice. They thought that it will be helpful for the researchers to study the ways old people are represented, in visual media content. Media always influences everyone, the representation it shows of old people, is how we accept them in society, as well as how we see ourselves, as “being old”.
That’s why the media’s substantial contribution is necessary. Ron and Harwood (1997) and Walker (2012) conducted pilot studies revealed that in a print advertisement, television advertisements, and television programs, older adults are often delineated as an economic weight on society. These representations and visuals play a role in stereotype formation. Encountering such stereotypes can harm the self-esteem, state of health, psychological integrity of older adults. Also, authors like Ylanne (2015) have found that media representation of old people has shifted from under-representing towards a more positive depicted.
In Good Company, a film directed by Paul Weitz, in 2004, has reported that it shows how ageism affects both youth and adults.
Sebastian Lelio, a Chilean director made a U.S. remake of 2013 filmed Gloria. The original one challenges the notion that remarks, as women age they become socially and culturally ‘invisible’ and depicted as powerful, desirable, and sexually active. Julianne Moore acted in an English remake titled Gloria Bell (2018).
Actor Pierce Brosnan in an interview in 2005, told that ageism one of the main factors as to why he was not asked to continue his role as James Bond in the Bond film, Casino Royale (2006). Madonna in her 50s has come out and had spoken about ageism. Kim Cattrall has also spoken about this issue.
Though every ‘ism’ is not going to solve in the near time. Ageism is yet to accept as a problem by the people. People have this mentality of not being bothered by ageism, which is so ingrained in our society. People need to raise their voices against it in society. We need to start recognizing this as a real problem and have to break this stereotype image of old people.