By George Evens. – Some observations by The Elder Citizen Action Coalition – To combat ageism and resulting abuse, we all need to challenge the myths, the erroneous notions that seniors’ lives are less valuable, don’t deserve respect, seniors do not feel emotional pain, or that seniors are largely responsible for growing health care costs.
Informed seniors can prevent negative stereotypes of aging and combat perceptions by younger generations viewing seniors as different. Instead we need to create positive stereotypes of aging, e.g. older people are wise, caring and involved.
Sometimes ageism takes on a disdain and dislike, such as avoiding contact with older people, perceptions of seniors being weak, frail, disabled, being treated different – often meaning less – less valued, capable and thus ageism rises.
Ageism often surfaces in discriminatory practices and services of all kinds, often where greater social value is given to people without impairments. Indeed, often seniors are perceived as having outlived their usefulness and lifelong contributions are overlooked.
Ageism often manifests itself in how visible seniors are in society and some seek to marginalize and make them feel unwelcome.
There are wide differences among seniors in their chronological age and avoidance of creating impressions of being possessions, not as individuals, so it is common to see that people seldom think their actions are ageist.
Seniors may experience authorities not believing them; being discounted out of hand; not considering harm as serious or unreliable memories of seniors, etc. Rationalizing financial abuse or the notion that older adults have less right to their money or property than younger family members, merely perpetuates the negative attitude towards older people.
Ageism equates to fewer public resources available for abused seniors than other groups.
Ageism, discrimination and abuse are all interrelated.
Ageism thrives on ignorance. Education is required as well as challenging those being disparaging of seniors, correcting inaccuracies and letting them know comments are hurtful or offensive. As seniors advocates we must create bridges to connect the life spans of all age groups, to create an environment that advocates greater acceptance of seniors in society.
Sadly, many seniors can be their own worst enemies, failing to get involved, demanding improvements and rights, to unite in purpose and often to criticize behavior of other elderly people.
The District of Mission and notably its Municipal Councils of the past, epitomize the governance and approaches that have been remiss in addressing seniors’ needs – to eliminate loneliness; to create a camaraderie and instill a pride of belonging by, in part, the simple gesture to establishing a Seniors’ Activity Centre.
The Elder Citizen Action Coalition (ECAC) shares these observations with the public in hope that the issue may be recognized, unacceptable behavior changed and seniors given due respect and benefits to enhance their lives.
George F. Evens
The Elder Citizen Action Coalition (ECAC)