Labels have existed since the dawn of time but perhaps never more so than right now. There’s a tendency amongst us to slap a label on just about every little thing and just about every age group too. We have baby-boomers, millennials, Gen – Xer’s and Generation Z. (Does this mean we will have to start the alphabet over again for those born in 2019?) It’s even worse when it comes to seniors. Variously considered to be those folks who are 65+, we seem to have developed an entire vocabulary just for them. This language is often exclusionary, sometimes unintentionally demeaning and on occasion gives a whole new meaning to “taking creative license” with the facts. Today we’re talking about ageism, language and its impact on seniors, intentional or otherwise.
Ageism is the discrimination, prejudice or stereotyping of a group of individuals on the basis of their age.
According to the World Health Organization, it is an “insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults.” Ageism can lead to restricted employment opportunities, social marginalization, stereotypes in the media and can even have an impact on housing and community programming. WHO goes on to suggest that despite the negative impact of ageism, it is also one of the most “socially normalized” of any prejudice, meaning most of us think it’s ok to talk (and treat people) the way we do or at the very least, we’re resigned to it. Given that by the year 2020, those who are over 60 years of age will outnumber those who are 5 years old or younger, ageism is clearly a problem we need to address now.
While you might be familiar with expressions like “age is just a number” or perhaps you personally have a healthy attitude toward aging, the reality is many people don’t. The type of familial support and the percentage of intergenerational families who all reside together in one dwelling is dwindling, particularly in developed countries. This means more and more seniors, even those who have a positive attitude, are not able to “live life to the fullest” due to budget constraints, health-related issues, lack of social supports and more. All the more reason some might argue, that a service like Amintro is so important because it helps like-minded seniors connect with others in their community who share similar values and interests and can act in a mutually beneficial capacity for one another.
It’s time we started paying more attention to the older demographic and how we talk both about them and to them. Should we refer to seniors as “seniors” or “mature adults” or as “older adults?” Should we employ euphemistic terms like “_______ is good for the young and young at heart” instead of “______ is good for both young and old?” How does it make us feel when the media comments on the “aging population,” conjuring up images of elderly seniors, hunched over and walking with a cane? What about that term “elderly?” We’ve talked in another blog about what constitutes a senior but what is the magic number that determines when one has transitioned from “older adult” to “elderly?” How “old” is old anyway and how old is “elderly?” Recently, an ad campaign specifically targeting the use of the phrase “She looks good for her age,” called out our use of such qualifying language as demeaning and discriminatory. In more simple terms, you might just say it’s unnecessary. “She” either looks good or she doesn’t, and age should have nothing to do with it!
At Amintro we are striving very hard to focus on the vibrancy of aging, on the absolute joy of being exactly where you want to be at this stage in your life and to focus on living life.
It’s spring after all; a time of renewal and rebirth, a time to make plans for summer travel and enjoyment, to dine al fresco on a patio, invite friends over for a BBQ and to soak up the sun. What better way to do that than with a friend, a new friend you made using the Amintro app! Whether you’re “young at heart,” a “mature adult,” a “senior” or even “elderly,” we invite you to join Amintro and use our app to make new friends. We also invite you to shift your perspective on aging. Age really is just a number and if you’re “number” is 50+ – join Amintro today!
Written by Sheralyn Roman