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AGEISM—WHAT IT IS, HOW IT MANIFESTS, HOW TO REDUCE IT



As I enter my senior years, I am challenged by the repercussions of ageism. Age discrimination can range from subconscious beliefs about people to abuse and is often misunderstood and unrecognized. Ignoring the reality of and problems around ageism is merely another facet of discrimination.


Ageism is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s age. It affects people of various ages, including children, teens, and young adults, when perceived as inexperienced, naive, or uneducated. It can be even more damaging when combined with sexism or racism. A United Nations study of ageism revealed that it is an “insidious scourge on society” and a “deep-rooted human rights violation.” It impacts health and well-being and can contribute to premature death and depression.


Healthcare rationing based on age is widespread as senior citizens are often seen as less relevant and that they will die soon anyway. These attitudes can limit medical care, be dehumanizing, and influence the quality of life.


In personal relationships, ageism can lead to controlling a person, disregarding what they want, patronizing them, making jokes about them, or treating them as invisible. Ageism can rear its ugly head in subtle assumptions like the elderly are sad, lonely, poor, frail, less physically and mentally astute, should dress a certain way, or that the younger population is less knowledgeable or incapable. The result is a loss of individuality as a victim of ageism is placed in a restrictive box.


In the US, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects individuals over 40 from hiring, promotion, discharge, compensation, conditions, and privileges discrimination in employment. However, seniors often struggle with managing technology they have not been trained on. From SmartPhones to maneuvering the internet, they can be at a disadvantage. Yet, many have kept up with technological advances, so it is inaccurate to characterize them as inept or fear hiring and promoting them. Recent studies have shown that the two hemispheres of the brain work more harmoniously as we age, which leads to enhanced flexibility, creativity, and problem-solving abilities. It can be productive for a company to hire people of all ages.


It is a false perception to peg the older generation as the most financially challenged demographic. Seventeen million adults in America over 65 years of age have income insecurity when facing rising housing and food costs, job loss, healthcare costs, and inadequate savings. Despite this grim statistic, the older generation has had lower poverty rates than those aged 18 to 64 since the early 1990s, likely due to planning for retirement.


Older adults often internalize ageism and see themselves negatively, especially when others view them this way. But the “golden years” should be a time of exploring activities, traveling, reflection, and pursuing hobbies and interests that they previously did not have time for. It is a time to enjoy family, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. With newfound freedom, the older population should experience increased well-being in an advanced civilization.


In some countries, such as Japan, which has the world’s oldest population, elders are revered and treated with respect. Many reside in multi-generational households. Citizens over 80 are celebrated and given money on Rever the Elder Day. Children in Japan are encouraged to honor their parents, and aging is viewed as an important stage of life when wisdom is gained.


It is beneficial for younger people to hear about the challenges, efforts, and influences that elevated us to where we are now from those who lived through them. In the U.S., we no longer have a draft thanks to the Vietnam anti-war movement. The Civil Rights Movement led to legal protections, awareness, and improved rights for marginalized populations. In truth, we have come a long way. Understanding how life has improved offers hope and leads to a deeper appreciation of the sacrifices made to uplift society.


Wellness modalities became very popular in the 60s and 70s as the focus of the younger generation shifted to seeking peace, enlightenment, and the brotherhood of men. It was a time when people explored Eastern cultures, sought gurus, and held attitudes that fought traditional values. It was when a more holistic approach to physical and mental health emerged and interest in meditation, yoga, herbal remedies, and metaphysical topics expanded globally. Today, the wellness industry has made a comeback and is dramatically contributing to personal growth, spirituality, and prosperity, paving the way to an enlightened and joyful future.


wellness retreats for seniors

There is much to be learned from those who have worked on their spiritual growth for decades. In many instances, their empathy and understanding increase, and they become more in tune with their intuition. Look to the older generation for guidance, as the wisdom they gained can provide it.


We must understand age discrimination, diminish stereotypes, advocate for its victims, and include them in our activities. We must reject subconscious beliefs about aging and embrace the older generation’s value.


Those affected by ageism should speak out when they feel victimized, as others often do not realize they are discriminating against them. Seniors can refuse to succumb to stereotypes that mark them as useless, sick, unhappy, or inept by cherishing the beauty that shines from within. Speak your truth, be willing to share your wisdom, dress the way you want, and seek adventures.


Policies, laws, education, and intergenerational activities have been found to reduce ageism and correct perceptions. Everyone should contribute to dispelling discrimination in all its forms. The blending of ages is as vital as the blending of races to improve our world.


If you have a senior in your life who you may have neglected or you think could benefit from some holistic healing then joining them on a private wellness retreat or spa escape with Best Life-ing would be a great way to reconnect with them on a deeper level. Learn more about or wellness experiences here


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