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Beacon Senior News

Changing the narrative on ageism

Mar 02, 2020 03:28PM ● By Lauren Berg

Everyone is older today than they were yesterday

“She looks good...for her age.”

It’s a comment you’ve probably heard before, and maybe even said. However, this is just one subtle example of ageism at work.

“Ageism is the discrimination of people on the basis of their age,” explained Cathy Trujillo, Time Bank of the Rockies Board President and the main speaker for “Changing the Narrative—Ending Ageism.”

Local residents gathered at Montrose’s Meadowlark Senior Apartments in January to learn and talk about ageism, and how to combat it in daily life.

“The great news is that recent research shows that education and intergenerational connection are effective in reducing ageism,” said Trujillo.

Ageism: The last bias

ageism discussion montrose

Of all the discriminating “isms” (racism, sexism, etc.) ageism can be more difficult to identify.

Generally, ageism is when people of all ages are put into a box of expectations of how they should act for their age. Stereotypes include, “older people can’t drive cool cars,” or “you’re too old to learn.”

Unfortunately, many people use these generalizations without knowing how harmful they can be.

Montrose resident Noalani Terry tries to avoid ageism by simply not sharing her age.

“I’m still working...and nobody has any clue how old I am. So it’s really convenient,” shared Terry.

She encouraged people to not buy into the divisive dichotomy of “old versus young.”

Additionally, the group as a whole was encouraged to reflect on things they’ve learned from someone of another age, or what they taught them.

“When we come together to share our perspectives, our attitudes shift about age and people of a different age,” said Trujillo. “We can discover what we have in common with each other, and we can all participate in changing our biases and taking concrete steps in our lives to reduce ageism.”

First, awareness

The first step to fighting ageism is awareness.

Catch yourself from saying “for your age” and instead simply state the compliment: “You look good!” Next, change your attitude from judging people for doing something “inappropriate for their age” to celebrating their courage in bucking an age-based stereotype.

“I didn’t really give much thought to [ageism],” attendee Kathie Johnson admitted. “And then you see how pervasive it is and how we need to look at our own attitudes inside ourselves and inside other people and say, ‘Hey, is this okay or not okay? What can I do?’”

Generalizations can be doubly hard to combat when we accept the ageist beliefs about our own age. Embrace compliments about yourself!

Second, perspective

If I knew I was going to live to 100, I would probably live a lot like my great-aunt.

My 90-year-old aunt shatters all the assumptions I had about her age. She continues to be active outdoors—snowshoeing, going on walks—travels frequently to see her family and doesn’t look like she’s slowing down any time soon!

I’ve never heard her say, “Don’t get old.” Why? Because she doesn’t buy into limiting, ageist stereotypes.

If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have as positive a view of what life as a 90-year-old could look like. Just because someone is turning another decade closer to 100 doesn’t mean they can’t keep having fun, being active and enjoying life!

At the end of the day, that’s what defeating ageism is all about: living life to the fullest, no matter what the haters say.