America is a young country. Our history is young, our Founding Fathers were young rebels, our national identity is rooted in a culture of innovation, seeking out the new. There are many good things that arise from this; we dream new possibilities and we’re unwaveringly aspirational. However, this also leads to a glorification of youth and dismissal of elders.
America is currently experiencing a notable demographic shift. Life expectancy in our country is now greater than ever before. Not only are we living longer, but the older segment of our society is also growing, particularly as Baby Boomers enter retirement. According to the U.S. Census, 20% of our society will be over the age of 65 by 2030. And, while most of us would like to live into old age, we simultaneously dread it.
Ageism is arguably one of the least acknowledged, but most pervasive isms we have in America, its rise helping explain negative attitudes towards growing older. There are many obvious ageist practices today — from discriminatory hiring practices to negative caricatures about angry old men.
One of the most difficult and unusual parts of ageism is the fact that it can be perpetrated by anyone — young or old — against ourselves.
America’s glorified culture of youth and obsession with anti-aging feeds directly into our worst ageist tendencies. We fight against all signs of wear and tear in our bodies, obsessing over wrinkles and hair loss and color. We are embarrassed about getting older, dreading our birthdays and lying about our age.
Evidence of ageism against seniors also appears when we examine our use of language. We assume incompetence when we use “elderspeak” in our voices and dumb down our language. Gerontologist Dr. Bill Thomas criticizes the tyranny of “still” — She’s still working full-time! He’s still jogging five miles a day! Our unconscious attitudes towards older individuals assumes decline, and anything outside of that norm is treated as an unusual novelty.
Ageism is not just a bias against our older segment of society; it is a bias against ourselves and our own process of aging. We fear, disdain and combat getting older, crippling ourselves and limiting our understanding of our own capabilities in the process. However, as we become more aware of ageism in our society, we can proactively take steps to counter it.
So, at HoneyCo Homes, we are striving to combat ageism by purging harmful ageist tendencies, rethinking how we integrate older people into society, and learning to greet aging with dignity and respect. We encourage you to join us in this movement and recognize the benefits and beauty of growing old and acknowledge the contributions older people offer all of us in society. If we do this, it just might be possible to reimagine a modern intergenerational society.