(Image Courtesy of Larrygrams)

Americans are living longer than ever before. Thanks to advances in healthcare technologies we have increased the life expectancy by an average of roughly 30 years since 1900. Considering a person in Oregon lives until they are approximately 79.5 and the average age of retirement is 66, this leaves 13.5 golden years to live in comfort. Unfortunately Agism and Ableism often occur throughout this time before our very eyes. This particular form of discrimination is becoming more widespread as Americans continue to live longer. Negative attention of this kind can lead to mental issues as feelings of negative self-worth can create a downward spiral.  Let’s explore the causes of this and discuss some simple steps we can take to overcome this.

Despite their lifetimes of achievements and experiences, older people can sometimes be thought of out of touch with current trends and lifestyles. While it may be true that grandparents may not be on Twitter or other Social media platforms, this does not mean they deserve to be ostracised by the younger population. Mental Health Practitioner Jaya Seenichamy has explained that the self-image is in a constant state of evolution.  

“When one’s self-image is negatively impacted, we see rapid decline. When people are ostracized or marginalized they will compensate in some way . . . Some become aggressive, some self-isolate, some end up with depression and anxiety.” 

Storytelling

One way to overcome this issue is by actively engaging with our older family members. Telling stories is one of the least difficult ways to remind someone that they are a worthwhile individual. Stories of immigration, overcoming hardship, building a business, and being a part of history are all wonderful ways to allow a parent or grandparent a way to express themself in a positive way. Allowing people to tell their stories not only allows them to socialize but to remember times they have persevered in the face of adversity. 

The importance of a strong narrative is universal across all cultures. Even the oldest cave paintings are a form of storytelling. From a psychological perspective, stories engage the senses and emotions while elevating the narrator. It also builds up the narrator by allowing them to be the hero of their own tale.

In the Workplace

The elder population is not constrained to the retired community. Ageism in the workforce is becoming more of an issue as the population ages. However, with this age comes a number of benefits including both work and general experiences. Being able to pull from a lifetime of lessons and practical skills can allow them to stay more level-headed during times of strife at work. These experiences all give them more insight into creative problem solving that managers and leadership can benefit from. 

Business consultant and author, Stephen Bastien, believes older employees are more honest than their younger counterparts. While a fresh graduate may be more likely to say “Yes” to a superior despite objections, a wizened employee may push back and suggest a better way to solve a problem. Aside from directly addressing an issue, being truthful in the workplace also sets a good example for fellow workers. Furthermore, a company culture built on honesty strengthens the entire organization. In this case the cliche of “Honesty is the Best Policy” rings true. 

Changing these ideas and perceptions will take time. Effort will need to be taken to ensure that all members of the ageing population are treated fairly and kindly.

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