© Imelda Maurer, cdp
I was surfing through Facebook not long ago and searched for a business associate from my past. This woman is about age 60. I found her page and read one of her recent public posts which I copy here:
“Did a little shopping today. I'm always taken by how polite the clerks and other shoppers are -- greeting me, opening doors, young people letting me go ahead of them in line. I keep hoping it is not because they think I am old!”
Does your heart break like mine when you read this? Another woman, well-educated and in positions of authority and policy-making for many years, reveals her blindness to the lie, and her acceptance of that lie that ‘old is bad and young is good.’
One of the most serious consequences in acquiescing to this lie of the tenets of ageism is its impact on each person who believes it, and then lives with it. There is a lowered self-image along with, as research tells us, poorer physical, mental and social health outcomes in later life. These consequences are a kind of poverty that we cannot abide!
There is a second consequence of not recognizing internalized ageism. If ‘old is bad’, I will do everything I can to avoid that label, and to unconsciously separate ‘them’ from me. The old become ‘the other’. We are not like ‘them’. I believe that this mindset of internalized ageism is a major reason why the culture of aging services continues in so many places to be so impersonal and so institutional. With the blinders of ageism firmly in place, one cannot imagine how life might be different for those needing supportive services, how those in our care are not ‘them’, but ‘us’.
A renowned geriatric social worker, Carter Williams, addressed this very issue when she convened the Pioneer Network Conference in 2013. In my next entry I will share Carter's deeply honest and vulnerable remarks about her shocking recognition of her own internalized ageism.