Tuesday, December 28, 2010
In our society there is a belief that older worker’s regularized retirement provides benefits to other workers and to society because the transition is predictable and ultimately less expensive. This was one to the basic primacies of mandatory retirement before it was abolished in Canada. In current society there is still a negative ageist stereotype that older workers wind up being more costly and are therefore less beneficial to society.
Negative ageism is easily understood and is defined as “any prejudice or discrimination against an age group.” If we were talking about racism all we would have to do is change the word age to race.
There are also positive types of ageism involving prejudice that is based on positive stereotypes and attitudes. They also lead to discrimination at both the personal and institutional levels.
Key ageist stereotypes on the negative side are: lack of sexual desire, ugliness, mental decline, mental illness, uselessness, isolation, poverty, and depression. On the positive side are: kindness, wisdom, dependability, affluence, political power, freedom, eternal youth, and happiness.
In both cases the ageist stereotypes like racial stereotypes prevent others and sometimes ourselves from seeing who we really are right here, right now. A good example of this is older person’s beliefs in “senior’s moments.”
Dr. Erdman Palmore, who has created a book on the topic, argues that positive ageism was more typical among our ancestors. First of all there weren’t that many older persons, as life expectancy was much lower. Also, churches and families were more likely to be controlled by elders and seniors were also more likely to control land and work environments.
In conclusion, Palmore warns that if we have a worldwide economic setback, like the one in the 1930’s in which inflation increased, banks failed and there was a general collapse, negative ageism could again become a major societal experience. This could also happen if a new pandemic occurs, that threatens the healthcare system. It has been reported that the average time elapsed between each of the last four pandemics was 25 years. It has been over 30 years since the last one. If this happens we elders will get less medical support because of our age.
On a more optimistic level, Dr. Palmore argues that things will be much better if, instead of moving seniors out of the mainstream we find a way for reintegration. Do the ideas presented above make sense in terms of where you live? And if so, what can we do to get things rolling?