3 Ways to Help Combat Ageism

Two men playing chest in the middle of a city park with people and buildings surrounding them.

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve probably witnessed or experienced some form of ageism in your life. From casual conversations about older adults being referred to as “elderly” and the humor often used in greeting cards to the anti-aging messaging prevalent in the beauty industry, there’s no denying ageism is all around us.

We invite you to watch an in-depth conversation about ageism with two local experts from the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging, Kimberly Scanlon, and Georgia Lane. To watch the full conversation, check out our YouTube channel.  

So, what is ageism and why is it so harmful?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), ageism is the stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups based on their age. Ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs. 

Not only are these negative attitudes about aging hurtful to older adults, but they can also shorten their lives. A research study that appeared in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 2) by Levy et al., shows that older adults with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions of aging. 

Fortunately, there’s a lot that you can do to reduce aging biases and improve attitudes about aging – for yourself and others around you..

3 ways to help combat ageism:

1. Recognize when it’s happening – now that you have a better sense of ageism, pay closer attention to all the ways it shows up in our society. The more you’ll look, the more you’ll see.

2. Speak up – if you hear or see something that’s considered ageist, don’t be afraid to speak up and encourage others to do the same.     

3. Be more inclusive – older adults have a wealth of experience that you can utilize in the workplace. So, make sure you’re optimizing their skills, talent, and perspective whenever an opportunity presents itself.

For more valuable conversations about aging, check out our Community Conversations page or send along any questions/comments you have to hello@duluthagingsupport.org. You can also contact the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging at aaaainfo@ardc.org.