Ageism is a form of discrimination and prejudice based entirely on a person’s age. It is something you may begin to notice as you get older. It can begin with the condescending terms of endearment; “dear”, “sweetie”, “honey”.
It usually starts around the age of 50. The last time we were referred to in these terms, it was likely we were about three years old.
I wrote a column about this a few years ago after I was greeted with “Hello Sweet Pea” as I walked into a retail store.
Of course, it brought with it an opportunity to laugh, as one of my friends regularly calls me “Sweet Pea”. LOL
But it is quite different from a friend, as opposed to a stranger, who, by simply using words, relegates you to a seemingly childlike state.
You can see the ageism judgment in people’s faces when they converse with you (and isn’t it obvious? I call it the “awww” factor…) I read it in comments on social media and the writers of the comments are not even aware of it, because a lot of them are still stuck in the arrogance of youth, too busy continually putting their photos up for everyone to comment on. (can we say narcissistic society?)
They think they know everything and the horror of it is that perhaps we were the same at their age (minus the social media venue) and perhaps they might even be our own children. Cringe. Perhaps it is a right of passage thing?
We do know however, that once they hit the magic number of 50, that the we-know-everything-chip will soon fall off and the realization of actually knowing less than they thought, will start to be entertained. (it is humbling if nothing else)
You can suspect it is ageism when you do not get a call back for a job, or when, upon presenting an idea, you get the ‘awww’ face and bland discouragement, without being too discouraging of course.
Or, as happened to me recently, when I said I had my own business the person exclaimed, in apparent amazement, “You STILL work?”
You know it is ageism when you have made a point about something, but a few seconds later a younger person may state the same thing (perhaps less eloquently) and people act like it is the most deeply profound statement they have ever heard – despite hearing it from you moments earlier.
I was delighted to hear former broadcaster Bill Richardson validate what I (and others before us) have said for years, that we seem to become invisible as we age.
Or, it goes over the top the other way. Simply because you have the good fortune to still be alive, it is implied you have “wisdom”. Dependant upon whether you have worked on your issues, you may arrive at the door of being older just as perplexed and unhappy as when you were younger; settling for the wrong things and missing the opportunity to discover your inner joy. But enlightenment, once pursued, often happens quite quickly and wisdom can settle in comfortably.
But however we arrive at this door, we deserve respect. Our brains have not fallen out simply because we are now older. We do not need to be treated in a childlike manner. Our brains have, in fact, learned to filter out the not-so-important stuff from the important stuff.
Just like all the other “isms” (racism, sexism, etc.) ageism disempowers those, who in all likelihood, have had a courageous journey and who should be respected for their life’s experiences.
We do not have to remain silent in the face of it, we can and must speak up, before it settles in and becomes normalized in our society.
We are not invisible unless we agree to be.
Carole Fawcett is a counsellor, clinical hypnotherapist and freelance writer. www.amindfulconnection.com