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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

We are going to discuss the definitions, issues and problems of ageism here. The root of the word already prompts, that this notion is related to stereotypes and discrimination of people due to their age. For the first time this term was used around 1969 by gerontologist Robert N.Butler. Based on the racist and sexism discriminations, he applied this notion to discrimination against senior people. The initial definition of ageism by Butler described ageism as: “a combination of three connected elements. Among them were prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about older people”¯ (Aronson, 1976).

On one hand stereotyping is an integral part of our lives, on the other hand stereotypes are able to do a lot of harm, especially when they are incorrect.

There are several examples of ageism stereotypes. Adultism belongs to them and is described as “a predisposition towards adults, which is seen as biased against children, youth, and all young people who are not addressed or viewed as adults”¯ (Bell, 1992). In case young people preferred over old people, this is called jeunism. The brightest examples of this stereotype are political elections, commercial activities, cultural settings. Adultcentrism is the exaggeration of adult’s egocentrism. Adultocracy presents the set of rules for definingĀ  “ maturity”¯ and “immaturity”¯, in other words, giving to the adults the domination over younger people. Gerontocracy is a kind of stereotype, based on which, some entity is ruled only by older population.

All these names of stereotypes are scientific and sometimes difficult to fully grasp. In reality people, who suffer from ageism discrimination, face very common and everyday problems starting from personal discrimination and to institutional one. Personal discrimination for an older person is often related to his inability to take part in some physical activities or to be aware of some technological advanced mechanisms. Younger people in this case may suffer from lack of trust from the side of adults and not allowed to take part in some social activities, because they are said to be too young for this.

Speaking about the institutional level, we should mention the policies and regulations, which foresee limitation of opportunities for concrete ages. An example of this is the defined by the official law age for retirement.

The most important sectors, where the influences of ageism stereotypes are evident, are health care and employment. Initially the problem of ageism prejudice in employment was related first of all to older people, later, however, this association was spread to workers of other ages as well. For example in many companies younger workers get less money for the equal job performed. This practice is absolutely legal, as in the United States for example the laws allow to pay lower salary to younger workers. Older people can experience problems if they decide to change their place of work, because there are often certain age limitations, set by the employer for potential candidates, irrespective of their work experience and personal traits.

As for the healthcare sector, here older patients often have sufficient problems. Even if diagnosed with curable disease, they are not treated correspondingly, as many of the doctors do not see the sense in making huge efforts, when a person is already old. The doctors realize, that their survival rates are lower and this influences negatively the quality treatment and amount of attention the older people get.

Overall, this is evident, that ageism has negative effect upon younger and older people; they both suffer from low self-esteem, which may cause deviations in their behavior and even worsen the situation. Nobody can avoid the periods of youth and aging in his life, and thus there is a strong need in reconsideration of the attitudes towards older and young people, in order to avoid the ruining force of stereotypes.

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