Friday, January 1, 2016

One hope for 2016

One of my many hopes for this year is that there is an end to our ageist society that devalues seniors. A clear message from my friends and senior groups is their strong desire to ensure that society values what they can do and their sense that they often feel “invisible”. 

While some seniors do need assistance, seniors actively contribute to their communities in many ways and their contributions should be recognized. 

Many, many seniors and senior groups express dismay at the portrayal of seniors as a drain on the system. Seniors spoke of the contributions they make as volunteers, as unpaid caregivers and donors to many philanthropic causes, and pointed to the taxes they pay and have paid in support of services available to all British Columbians.

What is an ageist society?

Ageism is a form of discrimination and prejudice, particularly experienced by seniors. Most seniors are mentally and physically active regardless of age with a great deal to contribute.

However, societal norms marginalize seniors, treat them with disrespect, make them feel unwelcome and otherwise generalize as if they were all the same. 

For example:   
  • Late night comedians and talk show hosts joke about seniors and memory loss;
  • Doctors often talk past the senior patient to an adult child as if the senior wasn't even in the room;
  • Younger adults mock seniors for being “slow”;
  • Commercial advertisements depict seniors as out of date, and lacking knowledge about modern culture and new technologies;
  • Certain laws and regulations are paternalistic towards seniors and limit their choices. 

Ageism robs seniors of choice, independence, dignity and negatively impacts their quality of life.  My hope is that this year we can seek to illuminate discriminatory practices that adversely affect seniors’ lives, illuminate prejudicial attitudes toward the aging process, and institutional practices that perpetuate stereotypes about seniors. 

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