Justice Now

J U S T I C E   N O W:

"Will you still need me? Will you still feed me when I'm 64?"

- John Lennon & Paul McCartney (The Beatles)

Have ever applied for a job and someone refused to hire you because they thought you were too young to be responsible? Maybe they didn't bother to get to know you as a person at all, and just made their decision based on your age and their idea about what someone your age is like. It probably mad you angry. And it should because it's a form of discrimination called ageism, a prejudiced outlook and treatment of people based on a stereotype of age.

Ageism works in the other direction too.

We live in a culture that reveres youth. To be young is to be alive, sexy, full of energy. To be old is to be "senile," "worthless," and having "one foot in the grave." And because of these ageist attitudes, senior citizens are discriminated against. And that discrimination allows the rest of us to separate ourselves from older people and view them as less than fully human.

A hundred years ago only 2.4 million Americans were over the age of 65. That was less than 4% of the population. Today, because of better nutrition, exercise and medical technology, more than 30 million Americans are over 65! (That's about 12% of the population.) Because people are living longer, there are more older people among us and we need to take a look at how they are treated.

What do you think when you see an senior? Do you feel pity, disgust, fear? Do you ever think "Oooh. That person's so old!" If you do, then you are guilty of ageism! Because you aren't relating to the individual, you're making a judgment based on a stereotype of what all senior citizens are like. If you don't like being lumped together and judged with "all teens" then stop lumping together "all seniors."

Start looking beyond the labels.

Ageist attitudes make it harder for older people to be taken seriously. To be treated with respect. It's even harder for them to get jobs or to keep they jobs they've performed successfully for years. Today with many companies are "downsizing" and highly qualified men and women as young as in their 40s are considered disposable. Of course this is age discrimination too!

In many cultures, however, older folks are not only respected but revered. They are looked up to for their wisdom. In Native American culture the elders are cherished for their knowledge. In Hispanic and Asian cultures this is true as well.

We are all growing older, every day. Which means, if you live long enough, someday you too, are going to be a senior citizen. That's why it makes a lot of sense to approach everyone you meet with kindness and respect, no matter what their age. We all have something to contribute and when we look beyond labels, we include people of all ages within the circle of our community. That way all of us become richer as we share in each other's life experiences.

Check out the Administration on Aging's (AOA) list of organizations, articles, and links on Ageism.

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