Ageism is a prejudice most older people will experience. It comprises a set of stereotypes many of us have bestowed upon older people in our lives, whether conscious or not. Often, it seems that a lack of understanding of growing older is firmly rooted in people’s disbelief or desire to ignore the fact that old age will ever befall them.
Age-related discrimination comes in many forms, but this article focusses predominately on the invisibility that comes with growing older. This invisibility can manifest in the erasure of individual identities in favour of a collective identity based on age, or it can reveal itself in discussions of ageing populations as non-contributing, problematic, and a burden on health and social care systems.
The author of this article asks, “What is the role older adults can play in society?” going on to describe the ways this role is still being figured out because of increased longevity. Nevertheless, the article leaves readers with the message that older people are not a unified group, but live in countless circumstances and make innumerable, underrecognized contributions to all sectors of society.
What remains to strive for is the dismantling of stereotypes that belittle older people, question their worth, and foster circumstances that can lead to invisibility, loneliness, and isolation in favour of a dynamic view of ageing that appreciates and encourages older adults’ full societal participation.
The IFA is dedicated to working toward enabling functional ability and full participation of older people in society. The IFA 14th Global Conference on Ageing will feature a Combating Ageism theme that aims to expose the many challenges faced by older people as a result of ageist attitudes in order to promote positive change.
To learn more about ageism, contact one of the following experts from the IFA Expert Center to arrange an interview:
Dr. Debra Whitman Chief Public Policy Officer
Debra Whitman, PhD, is an economist and expert on aging issues with extensive experience in national policymaking and global research.
Prof. Ariela Lowenstein Head, Social Gerontology Center for Research
Professor Lowenstein's research specializes in intergenerational family relations and caregiving
Dr. Anne Martin-Matthews Professor, Ageing and Lifecourse
Anne Martin-Matthews' current research focuses on two areas of inquiry in the sociology of aging.