What do you think about getting older? How do you react when you see older people, older than you, on the street? I am ashamed to admit that when I first met an Order of Canada recipient in his 90’s knowing nothing about his distinguished career and life at the time, my first thoughts went to his diminished physical stature and eclectic wardrobe. I realized my own ageist frame of mind after reading an article by colleague and researcher on aging Dr. Blair Roblin.

In his Winnipeg Free Press article “In the battle against ageism, the enemy is all of us,” Roblin points out,

“Ageism, plain and simple, is discrimination against older people. Most of us recognize that discrimination is nasty stuff in all its forms … But there are some curious aspects of ageism that make it different from other “-isms.”

Generally, when we discriminate against others, we cast them as the “out-group,” with negative features that separate them from us, the “in-group.”

But with ageism, we actually shun a group that we plan to join later in life. … we discriminate against our future selves.”

In a recent television clip, 67 women aged 61 to 85, who were collectively cycling 18,107 km over a four-week period, were described by the announcer as “grey-haired ladies.” Really? If it were men undertaking the same feat would the announcer have referred to them as grey-haired gentlemen? And that is what sparked me to seek out Dr. Roblin’s permission to link to his article. Roblin reminds us that addressing ageism is about:

“… our collective efforts to reconstruct the image of older adults as competent, productive, social beings, or at least on recognizing seniors as being no different from the rest of us — quite simply, young people who have grown older.”

And until we address the ageism within ourselves, we cannot be open to the myriad possibilities that the second half of life offers.

For an engaging take on combatting ageism, you can watch Carl Honoré’s TED talk, “Why we should embrace aging as an adventure” below. Honoré offers a set of simple solutions to combat ageism starting with how you talk about yourself.


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