As we get older I guess we view each new year differently from the way we did when we were younger. As our physical health changes each year we wonder how different we will feel physically at the end of the new year. We hope we won’t feel much different and in particular we hope our energy levels won’t have decreased much.
Our mental health shouldn’t change if we are keeping as many areas of our brain as possible in use. That we can control but the mental effects of the way society treats us, and its effects on us are a different story.
It is now 45 years since Robert Butler gave a name to the new phenomena he had become aware of, ageism. The name has the same construction as the other two impediments to full human development, sexism and racism, and this should have triggered alarm bells as to the way the recipients of this newly identified form of discrimination were being treated, and speeded up its identification and hence its demise but this hasn’t happened. It’s over 100 years since the suffragettes marched against, and exposed, sexism yet we still suffer from it. Will we still be fighting ageism in 100 years? I would like to think not but I am not very optimistic. One researcher pointed out that older people are the only group in society which criticises other members of its group. This doesn’t help our cause. Too many older people use expressions like ‘senior’s moments’ to expose what are thought to be our weaknesses. In fact they are not our weaknesses but are imposed upon us. Young people are as forgetful as we are but rather than regarding it as an indication of mental decline they just think it funny. This is just one instance of us older people putting ourselves down. There are enough people in the world looking at our wrinkles and grey hair and automatically doing that without us contributing.
Dare I hope that the new year which is almost upon us will bring new recognition of our strengths and capabilities, and what we have to offer society? At the end of it will older people have their rightful place as valued members of society? Wouldn’t it be good to answer these questions with a resounding ‘yes’! I’m not holding my breath! We older people have seen so many hopes in the past fizzle out it’s hard to keep up the optimism.
Maybe if every older person reading this makes a resolution to speak out against ageism, and ask all their friends to do the same, by the end of the year we will at least have made some impact on society.
Not only should we want change in our own communities but also in the wider world. To me it will be a huge victory when our representative in the United Nations is over 65. We should expect the same amongst groups which are supposed to represent us, such as organisations which claim to represent older people. In Australia they get government grants for doing so but not all their employees are over 65. Why not?. I would like to see every paid employee in these groups aged over 65.
These are the battles I want to fight. I’m sure you have different ones. May we at least have problems such as these identified in 2014.
Best wishes. Audrey