Wisdom For Aging – Age and Ageism

Issue 2, Article 1

If I live to see the end of the Mini-Boom—my children’s old age, beginning from years 2046 to 2054—I will be one hundred years old. Having had three grandparents live over age 95, I expect to be around. Recent medical research backs up the age-old notion that the human body is equipped to survive until 120 years old, if disease and disabilities are kept to a minimum.

I can’t help but wonder what things will be like for me, my three kids and three step-kids, our eleven grandkids and three great-grandkids (and I am only 55!), and all the ones to follow. I am active, informed and engaged with family, friends, business associates and our society. I am not alone. There are many more like me; in fact, about 77 million of us Baby Boomers. Most of us work, vote, have families and we watch out for our kids and parents.


As a Gerontologist, a social scientist who studies research, trends and successful aging specific to ages 60 and above, I spend a lot of time evaluating older age groups and the products and services they typically require and use. Healthcare reform will affect every age group, and many Americans are unaware—or just very trusting—of how this will work out specifically for them. Since the mathematics of taxpayer cost for government-run healthcare is massive and unrealized, America is not yet ready for the upheaval over “all ages-related” services and care options its people are about to enter into.

So it’s time to have a discussion about age and ageism. Ageism is one of the prejudices that—much like racism, genderism or religious hatred—spurs some who are not older to behave badly toward those who are older, whether it’s thinly masked or blatantly evident. It is time to call ageism out into the open, and name it for what it is: just another form of prejudice. In fact, names are what prejudice usually can be recognized by.

First, let’s agree that “a rose by any other name is still a rose”, and conversely, a stinker is always a stinker. In preparing to write this article, I researched this topic with my 23-year old daughter and some of her friends. I asked them for names that they have used or heard old people called by. Some funny and a few irreverent terms came out.

They started with the respectful senior citizens and retirees, moved to mature individuals and had no problem with the generic, the old. Not all that problematic. I threw down the gauntlet that I wanted reality, and we agreed that mature adults, although accurate, just sounded a little triple-X. We then got to geezers, blue hairs and old farts, which are okay only when that age group uses those monikers (sound familiar?). We laughed when they admitted to using old asses or grandmas when anyone drives too slowly in front of them; which, they pointed out, is unfair to their own “rockin’ grandmas”, whom they really love. We all had to agree with the newest and most accurate term for seniors: older adults.

This exercise proves that most Americans can come to terms with ageism and dispel it, although there will always be the jerks and the immature. In examining the terms we choose to describe what ALL of us are destined to become—old—the positive naming of older people can be a genuine effort NOT to marginalize their accomplishments and their ongoing contributions to society. Maybe, this time, we can get it right!

© 2010 Diane Alexander Patterson, MSG, CPG “If good real estate is about location, location, location, then ‘success in aging’ is about attitude, attitude, attitude!”

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