Reducing The Divide Between Young And Old

1739 words - 7 pages

The area of diversity that we will look at here is Ageism. First we will discuss some of the more important barriers that are present because of age. We will discuss how this group is affected by discrimination, prejudices, and stereotypes and some of the sources that perpetuate it. Finally we’ll attempt to show some strategies that both young and old can use to promote communication and understanding to hopefully reduce the divide between the young and old.

In ancient times the old we’re valued as teachers and mentors. They had the knowledge and experience that the younger population didn’t. But as the number of older persons increased, they were perceived as burdens to their families and to society in general. We now live in a modern age, and have what we would consider a civilized society. We are far from the barbaric tribes that would abandon the old and feeble in the wilderness to die alone. There is still however a large number of our older population that is discriminated against daily. In 1969 Robert Butler defined ageism as s “systematic stereotyping of and prejudices against people because they are old”. There is a cost associated with ageism. Like the prejudices against women (sexism) and race (racism), the impact of ageism is and will be considerable. Older people can and do play a major role in our social and economic development, but we fail to recognize their potential and deny them a significant role in our cultural life (Butler). Ageism theory has typically focused on the physical and mental changes in aging and the perceptions of uselessness and a diminished status that foster prejudices against elders (North, Fiske). In 1974, Bernice Neugarten was the first to identify subtypes of older people. She identified the young-old as people aged 55 to 75 that were typically affluent, healthy, educated and active. This was in contract to the old-old who were less active and mostly retired (North, Fiske). The predominant perception of the old-old is that of the pitiful old person, that is warm but incompetent, “doddering but dear” (Cuddy, Fiske). A significant perpetrator of this discrimination is sadly our government and the systems that were put in place to help us as we grow older. Government policy categorizes all people over the age of 65 as “senior”. In that light the federal government is fostering prejudice against elder Americans without acknowledging the rise in health, vitality, and activity in the older population (North, Fiske). Our media is broadening the division between young and old by the cultural stereotypes of older characters portrayed on television and the movies. This is especially common for women. Women, as they age are no longer recognized for their biological contribution to society and end up becoming invisible (Friedan). Our culture in the United States clearly emphasizes the importance of appearance for women. The ideal appearance improves chances of security, intimacy, success, and life satisfaction...

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