The time has come to disrupt ageism, according to a gerontologist..
If someone drives like a little old lady, is a grumpy old man, over the hill, past prime, or having a senior moment that person is likely to be the subject of some not-so-funny ageist cliches.
Ageism, as defined by Robert Butler in 1969, refers to the stereotypes (how people think), prejudices (how people feel), and discrimination (how people act) towards others or oneself based on age.
It is insidious, damaging, and systemic in society — but it doesn’t have to be that way, said Dan Levitt, an instructor at SFU, UBC, and BCIT. He’s also CEO of KinVillage in Delta.
Levitt will be presenting “Disrupt Ageism,” at a Zoom-based webinar for Third Age Learning at Kwantlen (TALK) on Tuesday, Feb. 15 at 2 p.m.
Ageism is everywhere, said Levitt, in the communities, the institutions, and in relationship to ones self.
It is particularly acute in the health-care system, he said, noting there are 10 times the number of paediatrians, as there are geriatrians.
Levitt noted that the system supports health-care rationing by age. For example, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, ventilators were provided to patients with the highest rate of survival, i.e. not necessarily the elderly.
And when outbreaks of COVID occur in care homes, residents are confined to their bedrooms with no social contact. Even the criminally incarcerated are permitted an hour a day outdoors, Levitt noted.
Although age discrimination in the workplace is no longer permitted by law, there is a subtle inference — backed up the incentive of Canada Pension and Old Age Security benefits — that at age 65, you’re an old dog who can’t learn new tricks, a digital dunce who should step aside for younger, more tech-savvy people.
City zoning is even impacted by ageism, when NIMBY protesters object to seniors’ housing projects or hospices in their neighbourhood, Levitt pointed out.
Visual stereotypes of seniors further denigrate aging. Example: the “Elder Crossing” signs depicting a decrepit, bent-over couple with canes.
“We are all buying into the senior stereotype and for some it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, negatively impacting confidence, job prospects, financial security, and quality of life,” he said.
How can society become more age-friendly?
Reversing ageism means embracing elderhood, he suggested.
“It’s OK to act your age,” Levitt said. “Healthy aging means feeling good about who you are. Be bold. Be your age and what you are. Flaunt it.”
He wants to see society start to de-stigmatize growing older by removing ageist phrases.
“Even those of us who don’t mind being patronized when someone says, ‘You look good for your age’,” Levitt noted.
To register for “Disrupt Ageism” people can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 604-599-3077.
For more information about TALK, people can go online.