What's the matter with ageism?

Dr. Sheree T. Kwong See, Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council
Description / Summary

Gerontologist Robert Butler coined the term ageism in the 1960s to describe a form of bigotry he paralleled in importance to racism. Ageism refers to stereotyping and the ensuing prejudice and discrimination against people based on their age. Although ageism can be experienced by younger people, the impacts are different, and arguably more serious, when experienced in older age.

The age stereotypes that drive ageism in later life can be positive, such as believing older age brings kindness and wisdom; but are more commonly negative. These equate older age with declining physical and cognitive prowess (especially our memory), illness and dependency. Peppered with a grain of truth, age stereotypes are overgeneralizations and tend not to characterize any individual or the complex reality of aging. The aging of each of us is highly individual, influenced by biology and in good part, our circumstances, choices and lifestyles.