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Act Your Age – Ageism Discussed

Ageism is defined as discrimination based on a person’s age. We frequently recognize ageism when someone is identified as too old to do something. Someone might get passed over for a particular job when she had the perfect skill set and interviewed like a champ. The only difference was that she was considerably older than the other applicants. Do you recall telling your parents that they don’t understand what you’re feeling because they were too old? If not, you most likely thought it. And we’ve all heard the adage, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks meaning once someone is set in their ways, they aren’t likely to change their methodology. All of these are classic examples of ageism. In a time where youth is valued, we frequently discredit the older among us and write them off as beyond their prime.

However, no one has exclusive rights to age discrimination.

I was just watching Real Housewives of Orange County – I know, don’t judge me! – and heard someone say “I don’t have to prove myself to a 30 year old!”  Now 30 can still be considered old by some groups! In this instance, though, the comment was used to point out that the 30 year old was entirely too young to demand respect. The concept is that this person is too young to have experienced the harshness of life. Sometimes we disregard input from someone who is younger than we are because we don’t think they have the wisdom to give us advice. After all, a 20 year old can only have so much knowledge and understanding! And who has ever heard the statement “children should be seen and not heard?” I know I heard that several times growing up (I’m looking at you, Dad!). But why shouldn’t children be heard? Sure, they may ask a million questions, but I sincerely doubt they’re as cynical or jaded as I am. Children frequently show up with such refreshingly different perspectives.

So, now that we know we’re all ageist – ugh – how can we steer clear of the ageist traps and pitfalls? Here are seven ideas to help you along the way:

  1. Don’t assume someone is too old to be flexible, make changes, or able and willing to learn a new skill.
  2. Don’t assume someone is too young to make mature decisions, offer sound advice, or understand and care about the bigger picture.
  3. Avoid labeling someone based on their age.
  4. Visit and talk with people outside of your age bracket.
  5. Seek out and acknowledge the positive attributes of a person as an individual and not “in spite of their age.”
  6. Recognize the benefits someone brings because of his/her age.
  7. Speak out against ageism and gently confront others when you see it occur.