October 1st marked the 70th Anniversary of International Human Rights Day. It also marked the start of a 70-day global awareness-raising campaign to address the culture ageism.
Why focus on Ageism? Because the stereotyping (how we think), prejudice (how we feel), and discrimination (how we act) against people based solely upon their age is prevalent worldwide. In fact, according to the latest research, ageism may be even more pervasive than sexism or racism.
Did you know that in some European countries, those above the age of 70 are denied the right to rent a car, regardless of their driving abilities? Would that be tolerated if that same denial was based on sexism or racism? Do you think it couldn’t happen here? The answer may surprise you.
According to a study published in a 2013 edition of “The Gerontologist” (www.geron.org/Publications/the-gerontologist/), researchers looked at how older people were represented in Facebook groups. They found 84 groups devoted to the topic of older adults, but most of these groups had been created by people in their 20s. Nearly 75 percent of the groups existed to criticize older people and nearly 40 percent advocated banning them from activities such as driving and shopping.
Older adults also feel the impact of age discrimination in the workplace. According to the US Equal Opportunity Commission www.eeoc.gov, almost a quarter of all claims filed by workers are related to age-based discrimination.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that 1 in every 5 workers in the United States is over 55. Nearly 65 percent of workers say that they have experienced age-based discrimination at work, and 58 percent of those surveyed believe that ageism became apparent starting at age 50.
Why should you care? Because “ageism,” according to the Ageing Equal Campaign, “has serious consequences both for older people and society at large.”
- Ageism leads to widespread marginalization, poverty and abuse of older people.
- Ageism affects how people live, work, play, grow up and grow old in our society.
- Ageism takes a toll on the physical, financial, social, and emotional health of individuals and families.
- Ageism impacts the economic well-being of business and community, creates barriers to policy change, and denies individuals the capacities and potential to contribute to the greater good.
- Ageism is everywhere yet remains unchallenged largely because it is socially accepted and entrenched within our culture and institutions.
What to do about it? The American Psychological Association (www.apa.org) suggests that ageism is a serious issue that should be treated the same as sex, race, and disability-based discrimination. They suggest that raising public awareness about the issues ageism creates can help. As the population of older adults continues to increase, finding ways to minimize ageism will become increasingly important.
Human Rights do not diminish with age. That’s why I invite you to join the ageing equal campaign http://ageing-equal.org/themes/ and to join me in educating our leaders recognize the importance of aging in planning for our community’s future.
By changing the way, we think, feel, and act towards old age we create a society for all ages!
Jeff Rubin, author of Wisdom of Age, consults on community and aging issues and is an honoree of the Maria Shriver’s “Architect of Change of the Week” Award. Having spent over 20 years as a director and facilitator of community service programs at the local, state, and national levels, today he is an advocate for “Age-friendly” and “Livable” communities. Mr. Rubin is currently working to advance positive aging in Kentucky and worldwide. He invites your comments, involvement, and support. Jeff can be reached at [email protected]