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Danielle Burch
Dr. Marlin R. Clark
Intercultural Communications 2150
April 25, 2014
The Impact of Age-ism in the United States
Every person will become part of the minority group of being elderly some time in their
life. In the American culture the way that the elderly are represented or how they are not
represented shows that there is an absence of knowledge. The absence of knowledge causes
stereotypes to become initiated and then maintained over time. Ageism represents the prejudice
the culture has about old age and what and older citizens will experience. Ageism reflects the
apprehension felt by society as they grow older and the distaste felt for becoming closer to death.
Since there is so little common knowledge of being considered elderly it has become one of
become one of the largest taboos.
The absence of knowledge causes stereotypes to become initiated and then maintained
over time. Stereotypes are used because they are effortless, since making judgments about others
takes effort and stereotypes make the process simpler. Beliefs often influence our responses to
others such that we treat them negatively, or do not treat them as individuals (Stangor 504). A
study was done on older people being depicted in media and it was noticed that they were
depicted as Silly, stubborn, vindictive, or worst of all, cute (Dass 206). The media begins to
focus on dentures or underwear to protect against their accidents, which then influences the way
that the rest of society feels about growing older.
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Stereotypes and prejudice limit opportunities for individuals to realize their full potential.
Direct discrimination prevents individuals from getting resources that impact their lives. All
older people encounter negative stereotyping, minority older people face low incomes, and
changes in the economy force many older workers to retire (Novark 511). The stereotypes
brought about by ageism cause negative thoughts without adequate support. Age isnt the only
group that faces prejudice No corner of the world is free from group scorn (Stangor 504). In
our culture being older is something that we scorn but instead it should be something praised for
all the knowledge gained over the years.
Ageism represents the prejudice the culture has about old age and what older citizens will
experience. Ageism is discrimination based on age and it is based off perception that being more
mature in years is unfavorable for some reason. The result is fear and anxiety over the ageing
process and our future ageing selves, which reinforces negative attitudes, encourages attitudinal
distancing of the elderly from ourselves, and fosters a tendency to blame the victim (Glover
382). Negative stereotypes then are held by all ages in a society, and most often it is a social
dilemma instead of a biological one. The attitudes that are held then enforce The idea of old age
as a burden, leading also to officially sanctioned neglect of the elderly in medical, education, and
social service provision (Glover 382).
Ageism is not a recent practice, but is an action that predates capitalism as a social
organization. High values are placed on physical strength so, prejudice develops because of the
loss of strength that is identified with old age. The more positive values of old age are connected
with the Value attached to experience, knowledge and wisdom but Have declined along with
the decline of custom, the acceleration of change and the loss of oral traditions (Glover 382).
The problem with America is that there is widespread accessibility of books which damage the
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importance of the memories and wisdom older citizens have. Elders in certain civilizations have
the upper hand compared to those in ours Civilizations which pass on their learning and
experience verbally have to rely on older citizens to provide the link between generations
(Glover 382).
Ageism leads to the interpretation that old age is a disease or affliction which then causes
them/us mentality that is seen in cultures today. Old age is associated with plateauing in the job
environment but actually all business structures that are pyramid in shape prove that not
everyone can move up. When employees are higher in the hierarchy they remain at a job longer,
and the longer they remain in a job the less satisfied and more bored they become (Glover
382). Older employees tend to apply the skill of accuracy rather than speed, which put them at
a disadvantage for the paced world today. Older employees can still be great employees with the
right mentoring, There should be an expectation that new skills can be mastered, and that
performance in known skills can be improved (Glover 382).
Ageism reflects the apprehension felt by society as they grow older and the distaste felt
for becoming closer to death. Older people in the population even try to distance themselves
from being considered old because They buy into the negative stereotypes, reject aging, and try
to stay middle-aged forever (Novark 511). Most people perceive that old is five years older than
they are at that time. Some forms of positive ageism try to do favors towards elders but only
support the stereotypes out there including new ageism. New ageism Assumes that older people
need special treatment due to poor health, poverty, or lack of social supports (Glover 382).
Some analysts express that Older people have plenty of money and political power and they
cost too much which leads to stereotyping that decreases public support for those that really
need the help they deserve.
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Society uses the media to make personal judgments about those that are older without a
second thought about it. The media enhances stereotypes for ageism like the joke You know
youre old whenThe last time you helped a little old lady across the street it was your wife
(Novark 511). At first this joke is funny, but imagine sharing it with customer or during an
interview for a job, and suddenly its inappropriate. The Simpsons present Grandpa Simpson as
Ignorant, forgetful and timid (Novark 511) and thats just one example of a prime-time
television show. In one episode he tries to break from the nursing home but They make it to the
sidewalk, look around, get scared, and shuffle inside (Novark 511).
A common practice is for some people to confuse the large percentage of those that are
able with the small percentage of those that are not. There are common misconceptions about the
number of older people living in poverty, experiencing loneliness, and living in nursing homes.
The view of old age felt by many older citizens was that Nearly all older people feel satisfied
with life in general and they look forward to the many years ahead (Novark 511). The more
knowledge is known about old age the more positive the view towards it becomes. The view that
elders have of old age Contradicts many of the stereotypes of old age (Novark 511).
Since there is so little common knowledge of being considered elderly it has become one
of become one of the largest taboos. Elders are expected to go to great lengths to hide their
appearances with plastic surgery but its a losing battle to fight against natural law. Aging is
hidden as much as possible Women now spend a full third of their lives after menopause
(Novark 511). Ram Dass compares the work many go through to trying to color all the leaves in
autumn green but ultimately losing the battle because winter is already approaching. Ram then
discusses the age spots on his hands when a message on TV stated They call these aging spots
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(Dass 206) and then But I call them ugly (Dass 206) so he then repeats They call these ugly,
but I call them aging spots (Dass 206).
The largest struggle the older citizens in society will face when encountering ageism is
the early exit from their jobs and then trying to find a new one. Older workers often have it
harder since they Are more likely to be dismissed than younger ones and less likely to find
employment if they are made redundant (Glover 382) and For organizations needing to shed
staff quickly, it has been relatively easy to negotiate early retirement for those close to retirement
age (Glover 382). Then once someone of that age is laid off the possibility of finding work is
slim and then they are encouraged to work part-time or they are low paid. Not everyone retires
right away George Burns worked into his late 90s and represented a new model of old age:
active, purposeful, joyful, enviable (Novark 511).
Retirement becomes a common fear because of the loss of money and losing power, but
some people find it enjoyable. Many elders become haunted about the feeling uselessness
because Jobs help to structure our days and to make us feel needed (Dass 206). Retirement
doesnt have to be the nightmare that its made out to be, Rather than see retirement as the end
of the line, it is possible to see it as an opportunity (Dass 206). At first the change is
intimidating but it often becomes delightful and it tends to give a sense of freedom. Some older
people report improvements in their health after retirement and Older people exercise, travel,
and take part in education (Novark 511) and some are said to be more active than those that are
younger than them.
Each year new people will join the group that is considered elderly and then they will be
convincing society to reshape their ideas about aging. It is the hope of those that know about old
age that Terms like longer-living and healthier, and perhaps our neologisms juvenating and
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juvenation being used instead (Novark 511). The more that is known about aging the better
the life will be for everyone. We are all aging and we have friends, relatives, and neighbors who
are now or will soon enter old age (Novark 511). There is no escaping something that everyone
will do so American culture would be greatly benefited by understanding ageism and respecting
those who reach old age now, instead of waiting to be that age to address the issue when its too
late.













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Works Cited Page
Dass, Ram. Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying. New York, New York:
Riverhead Books, 2001. 206. Print.
Glover, Ian. Ageism in Work and Employment. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001. 382. Print.
Novark, Mark. Issues in Aging. 1st ed. Pearson, 2007. 511. Print.
Stangor , Charles. Stereotypes and Prejudice: Key Readings in Social Psychology. 1.
Philadelphia, PA: Psychology Press, 2000. 504. Print.