The World Health Organization reports that ageism is the most socially acceptable prejudice in the world. But at a cost.
A 2021 survey of over 83,000 people in 57 countries found one in every two people held moderately or highly ageist attitudes.
'Just A Number' is our effort to educate people of all ages on the impact of ageism, to dispel misconceptions, enhance empathy, and eliminate stereotypes, stigma and ageist attitudes.
WHAT IS AGEISM?
Ageism arises when age is used to categorize and divide people in ways that lead to harm, disadvantage, and injustice. It can take many forms including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory acts, and institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs.
Ageism often takes the form of pervasive employment discrimination, biased health care, media caricatures, and perceived invisibility leading to social isolation.
"We cannot let age-based stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination limit opportunities to secure the health, well-being and dignity of people everywhere.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,
THE IMPACT OF AGEISM
Ageism is associated
with poorer physical
and mental health
Ageism can lead to
to lower financial
Ageism can result in
decreased quality of life
and premature death
"You're actually more likely to die earlier if you have extremely negative views about aging."
Gerontologist, Cornell University
HOW TO STOP AGEISM
Ageist attitudes towards any group, no matter the age, are unacceptable. As the only drop-in centre in Canada dedicated to men age 50-plus, including those who are homeless or precariously housed, we have witnessed the impact of ageism.
Our project – Just A Number – will help to reduce ageism through education and understanding. Here are a few tips for people of all ages to help end ageist attitudes towards elder persons.
TIPS FOR ELDER PERSONS
1. Speak up. Don’t let yourself be pushed around because you’re older. At family gatherings where there are people of all ages, you might be tempted to sit on the sidelines and watch, but make an attempt to participate.
2. Engage in the world. People who stay active — mentally and physically — can overcome ageism more easily. Live in the present, and look to the future. Show that you’re aware of what’s going on around you.
3. Be positive. Attitude has a lot to do with how people can overcome ageism. Relish the experience and wisdom that come with age and put them to good use.
4. Be as independent as you can. There’s a concept called "learned helplessness". If you assume that you’re unable to do some things because you're a certain age, you won’t be able to do them. You won’t lose those abilities if you continue to do what you can for yourself.
5. Surround yourself with younger people. You can help fight ageism by taking a class at the gym or the community college with younger people. You'll also discover that energy comes from being with people who are younger – it's a great motivator to push yourself.
TIPS FOR EVERYONE
1. Recognize it. To create awareness requires understanding that there is a problem. In other words, you can’t change something you don’t know needs changing, including yourself.
2. Speak up. If you hear something ageist, consider pointing it out. Rather than make someone defensive, you can calmly tell them you know they didn’t realize what they were saying.
3. Ask yourself, “Would I like it?” Treat older people with the respect you would want for yourself. Consider if you are being patronizing or talking to them like children.
4. Be inclusive. Promote intergenerational experiences. Yarmouth, Massachusetts, for instance, has a unique intergenerational model UN program that pairs an elder with a high school student to learn about a pressing global issue, such as water conservation.
5. Give yourself a break. If you realize that some of your past behaviour was unintentionally ageist, congratulations: now you are enlightened. You can make the choice to behave differently in the future.
LEARN MORE ABOUT AGEISM
Is Ageism Really A Thing?
“Is ageism really a thing? Isn’t it a sad fact that with age, everyone loses their memory, patience, utility, and worth and becomes...
Is Ageism Affecting Your Judgement?
Such expressions as “passing the torch” suggest that those younger candidates believe that age alone defines...
Standing Up To Ageism
The especially slippery part about ageism is that we can witness it in action time and again throughout society...
A DIFFERENT WAY TO LOOK AT
AGE & AGEISM
"Some people are old when they're 18 and some people are young when they're 90. You cannot define people by whatever society determines as their age."
"Getting old is a fascinating thing. The older you get, the older you want to get."
The Rolling Stones
Acknowledgements: 'Just A Number' was developed in its entirety by people aged 59 or older. Thank you to our panel of elder persons for their feedback and wealth of insight, and to the World Health Organization, NPR, The New York Times, Psychology Today, Everyday Health, and The Hartford, and to our funders, the Government of Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, and the New Horizons for Seniors program.