To follow up with my last article on overcoming ageism, here are two additional real-life stories where I had to deal with and overcome ageism.
Ageism can go both ways
During the spring of 2017, one of the courses I took in my Gerontology program was Ageism. It was an online class, which meant that for class discussion, the professor posed a discussion question each week to which we had to respond and then comment on the responses of at least two classmates.
One discussion question asked us to describe an incident posted by one of my classmates who, young person. She was hired as a supervisor in an organic nursery which was her dream job. She was well trained for the position and had a lot of experience working in organic nurseries. Despite her knowledge, several of the workers whom she supervised were dismissive of and disrespectful to her because she was a lot younger than they were. They made it clear that because she was so young, she had no business supervising them. Eventually, despite the fact that she loved the work, the job had become so stressful that she quit.
So, prejudice based on age impacts people of all ages.
Incident four: I was watching a show on ESPN about the National Football League’s pathetic refereeing. The commentator was discussing a series of blown calls made during the games played that week (I watched several and the refs are terrible – the worst in any professional sport). He stated he believed one of the reasons for all the blown calls is that plays unfold at a very fast pace. He went on to say that because many of the refs are older, they aren’t able to process the plays and therefore miss the calls. I immediately talked back to the television (I do that a lot and it never answers)-I know the science. Older adults do in fact process everything younger people process, however, we do it more slowly. So sure, maybe those older referees who can no longer process quickly shouldn’t be refereeing professional sporting events, but at least understand the difference between being unable to process and not being able to process quickly enough to referee an NFL game.
Again, the commentator wasn’t trying to put down older adults, but his ignorance furthered the myth that we stop processing new situations as we get older. It’s not true – we process but we do it differently. We utilize the knowledge and experience we’ve gained through our life course to assess new situations (what scientists term crystallized intelligence) and then process them (using what scientists call fluid intelligence). Sure, we may do it more slowly, but we do it. Being able to process and react to new situations is essential for all people. Our reaction time may be slower, but we do react.
The situations I’ve described are all examples of ageism: discrimination or prejudice against a person based on the person’s age. People, both young and old experience ageism in one form or another. I’m not going to tell you ageism is as serious an issue as most other “isms”, i.e no one gets lynched for being too old or too young. However, ageism undermines the dignity of those at whom it is aimed. I’d like to write more about this-how we can educate ourselves and others about ageism, what it feels like to be a target because of one’s age, how we utilize different forms of intelligence and maybe some ideas about how we can raise awareness about these things. We are different when we are older-in some ways we’re more than we were and in some ways less.
– Edward from McMinnville, Oregon, a FAR customer who is finding purpose in this new stage of his life.
Edward writes for FAR and is also a customer. He is 73-year-old, born and raised in and around New York City. After college and a little graduate school, he took Horace Greeley’s advice and went west. Edward lived in several cities throughout California and currently resides in Oregon. He practiced law for a few years as part of a law collective doing what they called “people’s law,” but spent most of his career working as an internal organizer for the unions.
When Edward’s career ended with the unions, he was determined to become an advocate for older adults. He enrolled at Portland Community College studying Gerontology. He learned a lot about aging and how it applied to his own life experiences and my own aging process. Much of Edward’s writing is related to what he learned in his Gerontology studies.
* The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of the Finance of America Reverse (LLC).