Internalized Ageism

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How do I feel about aging?  Retirement comes with the acknowledgement that time has passed and I am older… old. Then the internal conflict begins: I don’t feel old. I don’t want to be old. Do I?

Seniors’ Day At Shoppers

It’s that incongruous feeling that I got for the first time many years ago in a Shopper’s Drug Mart. It was a Thursday and the cashier asked if I would be using my senior’s discount for Seniors Day. The immediate feeling is internal outrage that someone thinks I’m old (the worst insult). Followed swiftly by the thought that the cashier looks very young and probably has no concept of age beyond 20. In reality, they were probably told to ask every adult about using the discount. But both of my reactions, betrayed my internal ageism.

Ashton Applewhite, an age researcher and writer, explains the paradox of prejudice against the elderly.  We will all (hopefully) get older. I am an “old person in training,” as Applewhite calls us. When we have these negative thoughts and reactions to older people, and being older, we are being ageist. “Ageism is prejudice against our own future selves.”

Ageist Society

Ageism is an insidious part of society that is often overlooked and diminishes our potential. As a retired person, I’ve had more years to internalize all the ageist ideas. Every time I tell myself that something is not age appropriate for me: ageism. Every time I hide my age: ageism. Every time I avoid a new experience because it’s for older people or younger people: ageism.

The beauty industry, the fitness industry, fashion, movies are all biased towards the young. Things that are common to older adults are mocked or belittled and that sends the message to all of us that wrinkles and old age are to be avoided. It takes time and effort to unlearn these myths and break free of ageism. 

Disrupting Ageism

Society isn’t breaking free of ageism any time soon, but I’m trying to do my part as I search for my next steps. My challenge is to disrupt my ageist thinking. It’s a big challenge that I’m only just beginning. I highly recommend listening to Ashton Applewhite’s Ted Talk and/or reading her book, This Chair Rocks.  I’ll be revisiting both frequently.

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