Everyone seems to have a say in my life now. Is this ageism?
Why does everyone feel like they can have a say in my life now that I’m older?
All older people will understand this question as it’s either happening to them, or they’ve seen it happen to others. It’s a complex issue and could be answered from a number of perspectives. We offer some factors to consider.
The pace of life and intergenerational differences?
Our priorities and interests change over our lifetimes. Often the point at which people feel the need to have a say in older people’s lives occurs when there is a clash of these world views.
There are a multitude of things involved in these intergenerational interactions including the pace of living of each generation, differing views of where responsibilities lie, and a lack of understanding of the older person’s experience and perspective (which we can only fully know when we’ve completed life's journey!).
The World Health Organization (WHO) Definition of Ageism – “Ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.”
How much responsibility do we take for our own actions, for not examining how much ageism actually affects our thinking, or for not challenging ageism when we see it?
It’s clear that a type of unrecognised type of ageism runs through society. The WHO states: "Ageism can change how we view ourselves, can erode solidarity between generations, can devalue or limit our ability to benefit from what younger and older populations can contribute..."
So, what to do?
In its most kindly form, we can explain this situation as people being well meaning. This does not however address the deeper issues. Older people aren’t quite ready to be ‘organised’ by others nor do they want to be left to their own devices. Just as the feminists before them, they want to be included, valued and contributing members of society i.e., to be seen as equal.
As older people we should ask ourselves – Have I swallowed the ageist bait? How have I been influenced by ageist thinking?
Everyone should ask themselves - Is my concern about an older person based on subconscious ageism? Would I behave this way with a younger person? What sort of messages do we want to give our future generations?
As has commonly been said ageism is discrimination against our older self. Let's look on that older self with the same regard as we look back on the younger self.