I recently had the pleasure of speaking about challenging ageism at the launch of the Hamilton Council on Aging's 'You're Never Too Old' campaign. For this talk, I decided on a personal approach, choosing to emphasize what each of us can do to promote positive images of aging. I firmly believe that change begins with oursleves; we each have the power to change the way we view aging and can encourage others to do the same. You can start by asking yourself questions such as these:
* Do you hear remarks made about older adults, such as saying how well they look 'despite' their age? What does that really mean?
* Do you feel awkward about revealing your age? Have you thought about why?
* Have you looked at an older person and thought 'You're too old to do that or to wear that? How old is too old? Who decides?
Once you become more aware of your own beliefs and attitudes, it becomes easier to catch yourself if your thoughts drift to outdated stereotypes and to change these thoughts and, if necessary, your behaviour.
Dr. Bill Thomas, well-known geriatrician and founder of The Eden Alernative and The Greenhouse Project, talks about the 'tyranny of still', meaning the way we tend to admire older people who 'still' look, act, and/or do something we generally associate with younger people. Perhaps we do this without consciously thinking about it until someone points it out to us. Ageism is not always intentional. I believe we need to encourage older adults to 'own their age' and to embrace whatever they are doing for the value it brings to their lives, not because it reminds them, or others, of a younger person engaged in a similar activity.
I continue to be invited to speak to groups about combatting ageism which tells me that this is an 'ism' that continues to be pervasive in our society and one that must be addressed. I am headed to Italy for a few weeks. While I have been there before, on this visit I will more consciously observe interactions between generations and will specifically look for examples of age friendly businesses. Stay tuned - I'll let you know what I discover! In the meantime, what are you doing to challenge ageism?