Let’s talk about the very real target on the backs of people as they get older: Ageism

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“Annually, ageism accounts for $1 in every $7—or $63 billion—spent in the U.S. on health care for the eight conditions with the highest healthcare costs among people aged 60 years and older,” the WHO report shows.

Many of us in the media, at least progressive media outlets, are quick to point out racism, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, and antisemitism—but ageism is rarely discussed.

As Forbes’ Sheila Callaham writes, ageism is overlooked because it is so “deeply ingrained” in our culture.

It’s pretty accepted that journalism, as a job, is for the young. But shouldn’t newsrooms be as diverse as the society and people they cover? For that matter, shouldn’t any number of other careers have a full spectrum of diversity—including age? Of course, they should, but ageism is as cemented in our culture as misogyny and other biases.

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., chair of the Virginia Commonwealth University department of gerontology and executive director of the Virginia Center on Aging, wrote a book called Ageism Unmasked.: Exploring Age Bias and How to End It. In it, she helps readers see their implicit biases as intrinsic self-loathing.

“Everybody thinks ageism is about older people. We are all aging. Not just in our later years but throughout our lifespan. We fail to see that we are not only setting ourselves up for discriminating against our future selves, but we’re impacting our health in a negative way,” Gendron told Health Journalism. “The powerful connection people need to make is we’re all elders in training. When you discriminate against someone based on their older age, you’re setting yourself up for that same level of discrimination,” she says.

Gendron’s book also talks about the way we think about aging itself. As if you can “combat” aging, or “win” by aging “well.”

“We also need to stop equating successful aging with physical and cognitive ability. Eventually, we’re all going to experience a decline. We are all going to die. We are mortal beings. So, does that mean at some point, each of us is unsuccessful in our aging? Does that mean that when we die, it’s a failure of aging? Can’t we accept that we all have different paths that does include changes to the way that we think, the way we feel and the way our bodies work? Many people feel left out of this definition of success. And yet they can find so much joy, meaning and purpose in their life,” Gendron says.

As I age, I take notice of the positives, such as being more patient with myself and others. But I also criticize myself physically in the same ways I used to criticize my mother. “Why can’t she exercise more,” I ask myself. “Why is she letting herself go?” But these weren’t the real questions. What I was really concerned about was that she’d age or even die prematurely—which she did. And I was also worried that I would age the way she would.

Our fears of aging have a lot to do with our fears of death and our insecurities about our looks and vitality. But what if aging was a good thing? An honorable thing?

The Hill’s Melissa Powell writes that the adage “respect your elders” doesn’t mean anything if all we do is pay lip service to it. “For ours to be a healthy and functioning society, we need to do more than just respect our elders. In life, business, and beyond, we need to listen to them, be inspired by their experiences, learn from their mistakes, and lift them up as they did for us.”

And most importantly, don’t assume that just because they’re older than you, they shouldn’t be in the job.

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By dreamer_live

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