I started thinking about ageism after a few articles had popped up in my news feed. I have to admit my definition tended to be narrow – I thought of ageism as a bias towards older people, however, it can be applied to any age group in any setting. How often have we heard or even thought of a person as “too young … ” or “too old …”?
It’s interesting how bias/prejudicial attitudes towards old or young tend to be the same. That’s because the objective is the same – using age to qualify a particular attitude that excuses, defines, deflects, overlooks, under-rates, and minimizes behaviors, intelligence or capability.
Have I missed out on opportunities to grow as a person because, after all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Or perhaps I’ve ignored the chance to learn something new simply because I considered the person as too young to teach this old dog anything.
The subtle side of ageism. Age has never been an issue with me. After all, my friends are of a wide range of ages. Oh, and hey, what about the age gap between me and my husband. Doesn’t that prove it? Well, only sorta-maybe-kinda-perhaps-meh. Because after a little reflection I discovered there have been times age influenced my perception or attitude.
Looking at the underbelly of ageism. It’s easy to shade attitudes in rosy colored hues. We blend them into normal, ordinary, doesn’t everyone feel this way tones. Or it’s attached to a perception that has been driven along in one direction. Whatever the guise the end result is a tendency towards using age to define, deflect, excuse, minimize … you get the point.
Finding shades of rose dusting my attitude. As I said, my friends cover a range of ages but what I failed to take notice of was the actual range. They have always been my age or older. My attitude clearly shifted when interacting with anyone younger than me.
Because it’s all about the inexperience of youth, don’t you know. It’s true the lack of life experience does (and should) have influence when interacting with young people. However, when age-centric formulas are flexible a humility rears up that sees learning opportunities in all ages.
My husband has a saying that goes something like “at times a teacher, but always the pupil.” That attitude can help deflate ageism. Of course, reasonableness and balance is important. There should be a healthy respect for whatever wisdom, insight, discernment, and knowledge life experience has given older ones. But that doesn’t mean young (and sometimes even very young) people are incapable of imparting life lessons.
The young can remind us to embrace life. I have friends with children in the tween / teen age group. In fact, I had written a post several years ago inspired by a conversation with two of the girls when they were little. And today they continue to inspire. They remind me of the beauty in simply being alive … regardless of age, circumstances, situations. It doesn’t take any particular age to be curious, to learn a new skill, take up a hobby – whatever it takes to stretch our interests and embrace life.
Imagine my surprise when one of the girls said she enjoyed writing. At the time she was 8 or 9 yrs old so, to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Then she started telling me about the various stories, and story ideas, she’d been working on. Wow is what went through my head and — well, I think I’ll tell you more about her in the next post.
Oh, but I will tell you this … her name is Brooklyn.