It shouldn’t come as a shock that research in The United States shows negative attitudes toward older individuals are far more common that positive ones. Ask anybody on the street and you’ll likely get a pretty dim view of our elderly. You might hear vaguely insulting comments about their inabilities or outright attacks on their perceived drain on common resources. But is this societal ageism an inherent part of Western Culture? And if it is, what can you do to combat ageism and keep the seniors you love from falling victim?
Ageism Wounds More than Pride
These stereotypical images of elderly individuals as helpless, pitiful, or even comically incapable can have a tremendous negative impact on an individual’s self-esteem, emotional well-being, and behavior. Seniors repeatedly exposed to them may begin to feel like dependent, non-contributing members of society and, as you know, a senior’s mental well-being has a significant effect on their physical health.
Obvious ageism isn’t necessarily to blame. Our Western Culture is full of veiled discrimination. Whether it’s in the slightly off-color jokes, the skewed portrayal of older people in movies and television, or in the tone of the news pieces we see, hear, and read in the national media—ageism is everywhere.
Even something “harmless” like the lyrics of popular songs can be crippling. Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University and the University of Hull found that 72% of age-related songs in America paint aging in a negative light, portraying the elderly as:
Filled with self-pity