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How to Thwart Ageism

Updated: Dec 28, 2021

Myths and stereotypes of aging can hinder open communication with adults.

It is a systematic form of oppression that anyone can experience unlike other types of inequity, such as racism, sexism, or ableism.

Generally there are three types of ageism:

1. Institutional Ageism

- occurs in a workplace or organization that perpetuates ageism through its policies and actions.

2. Interpersonal Ageism

- occurs in social interactions.

3. Internalized Ageism

- when a person internalizes ageist beliefs and applies them to themselves.

In 1967, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was passed to present ageism from taking place in companies. This federal law protects individuals who are 40 years and older from age-based discrimination at work. The ADEA specifically prohibits age-based discrimination with respect to hiring or any term of employment, including promotions, pay, benefits, work assignments, demotions, or termination.

“Ageism is prejudice or discrimination against people based on age. It typically applies to people who are older, but can also apply to younger people.” (Generation Alpha/Millennials)

Data from the 2020 National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 82% of older Americans reported experiencing ageism regularly. The survey found that:

* 65% experienced ageist messages from the media

* 45% experienced interpersonal ageism

* 36% had internalized ageism

Ageism situations can vary from hostile to subtle. It can be aggressive and violent, or be patronizing, such as when older adults are treated childlike and require guidance with basic tasks. The same can be true for younger people treated like they are incapable of making sound decisions.

Ageism can also lead to abuse. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that in 2017, a review found that 1 in 6 people over the age of 60 experienced some form of elder abuse, which can include emotional, physical, sexual, or financial abuse.

How can you encourage frank dialogue getting to the heart of the matter, but without discriminating?

- access your current work and personal environments

- evaluate language and job postings and interactions with older adults

- craft an age-inclusive brand that doesn't alienate older candidates or employees by demonstration of a high-functioning multi generational workforce

- have honest conversations about ageism with recruiters, interviewers and managers against potential biases

- offer a broad array of benefits to support all employees' needs

- support employee resource groups for older employees

- ensure office spaces are age-inclusive

- plan employee events that cater to all ages

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