If for no other reason than it affects everyone, ageism is the most pervasive of all forms of discrimination. Though some of us have more experience than others, the fact is everyone is aging.
The behaviors contributing to ageism, while no more or less deplorable than those contributing to racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and any other “ism,” are uniquely all-inclusive.
“But ageism remains both gross and subtle, and omnipresent, despite the fact that prejudice against age is a prejudice for everyone,” wrote Robert N. Butler, M.D. in The Longevity Revolution.
Practical counter-ageism strategies include reinforcing the economic clout of older adults, particularly Boomers. The entertainment and advertising industries are gradually learning to appreciate the value of marketing to this population with the most disposable income/wealth.
Savvy politicians are taking note of the aging of their constituencies, as well, and supporting policies and programs to satisfy their needs.
The more difficult, but more socially conscious approach is to remind and reinforce to people of all ages of the immense experience and wisdom inherent to the aging process.
The general public, and in particular younger, healthier individuals, are a tougher sell. Not to trivialize the challenge, but sometimes changing attitudes and actions begins with changing perceptions. And definitions, and words. For instance, while “aging” is a perfectly accurate description of the process of growing older, the word has been co-opted and abused by the plastic surgery and cosmetics industries. “Aging” has become something to deny, avoid, despise. None of which bode well for communicating and influencing public opinion.
“Longevity,” on the other hand, defines long life. Whether you see aging by looking forward or looking in the mirror, living it is better than not. Longevity is a positive goal which appeals to everyone who is aging, regardless of your years of experience with the process.
* The 2008 poster promotes a unique anti-ageism campaign in Dublin, which apparently continued annually through 2012.