Move from Ageism Advocate to Activist
I’ve been told talk is cheap. It doesn’t take much of an investment of one’s resources to talk, whether that be time, money or intellectual capital. (Well, O.K. Maybe it takes a little time.)
I’m frustrated with all the talk and the slow, almost imperceptible movement towards an outright revolt against ageism. Why is it that we as a society continue to turn a deaf ear and blind eye to this last accepted form of discrimination? How do we move from simply talking about it to doing something about it? What has happened to our passion for fighting for what is right?
I’ve made a few inroads into activism as a champion for the International Council on Active Aging’s (ICAA) “Changing the Way We Age” Campaign, and I’d like to share them with you:
1) Join the anti-ageism movement. It has helped me move from talk to action to feel that I’m part of a movement – something greater than just myself. Becoming a champion with ICAA’s Campaign motivated me to act.
2) Educate your circle of influence. Speak to groups of people about ageism. Share educational materials and resources on ageism with people through social media such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Write or blog about it and post it everywhere you can think of. People have learned to accept ageism from a young age through comments, marketing, and stereotypes that have been widespread. It’s going to take a mighty effort to turn this ship around.
3) Educate professionals that may perpetuate ageism. Many professionals unintentionally practice ageism in their professions. As I mentioned before, it is so ingrained and accepted by society that we have become de-conditioned to it and don’t even notice it for what it is. It takes a wake-up call from someone who understands its harmful effects. For example, I wrote a grant proposal and gave healthcare professionals in our town books on ageism in healthcare called, “Treat Me Not My Age,” by Mark Lachs, M.D.
4) Educate the business community on ageism. I served as the director for a “Senior Friendly Workplace” initiative in our town. We developed the Principles and Best Practices for Senior Friendly Workplaces, and educated and branded employers who signed an agreement to comply with them. (See my previous blog on this.)
5) Don’t let people degrade themselves or others because of age. When you hear someone say, “I had a senior moment,” remind them that people of all ages forget things. The idea that something is “forgotten” is often times more to blame on the fact that it was never “remembered” in the first place. The concept that helps us remember something is called mindfulness and can be learned through meditation and being present in each moment.
6) Boycott products that are marketed in an ageist way or deliver an ageist message. Don’t watch those TV shows that depict older adults as helpless, forgetful or in other stereotypical ways. Don’t purchase ageist birthday cards or paraphernalia that was meant to be funny, but missed the mark completely. Don’t let yourself be graywashed by purchasing products that make false claims to put aging “on hold.”
7) Make sure you don’t discriminate against people because of their age. Back up what you say by what you do. This is the test of true integrity. Don’t be a drop in the sea of ageism. Help to drain the sea through your actions. Be another hole in the Hoover Dam of ageism.
AGEISM: Prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.