I have never truly understood the expression, “You look good for your age”. I hear it personally and wonder what an appropriate response is? How is an ‘age’ supposed to look? According to (B.Levy, P. Chung, T. Bedford, & K. Navrazhina, 2013, p. 172) in their intro to addressing ageism in Social Media, “Ageism has been found to exist throughout a wide variety of societal institutions.” My thought and experiences show this to be true as I’ve experienced it in the classroom, my work place, and even by my own children. As a mature student who is considered a “senior citizen” by some parts of society due to my actual age in years I have been a recipient of ageism. As I sit in my classes I am constantly shocked and surprised how my fellow students, who’s demographic on the whole are younger than my own adult children, dismiss elders such as their ‘mothers and grandmothers’ in being able to understand/use technology. I am an Interactive Arts and Science Major with the majority of my courses involving social media, the web, gaming, and other digital technologies that have developed within the past 20 years. A few years back, I even had an instructor who kept referring to himself and myself as “too old to get it” when it came to technologies…because we were not digital immigrants [those who grew up only knowing the web technology we currently have]. Privately I did suggest to him that this was a form of ageism and I was frustrated to be treated as ‘other’ in the classroom due to my age, but this did not stop him. Ageism is a common problem and one that continues to be perpetuated. My own mother who is 85, is currently learning and actively using her iPhone 6. She has always been computer literate as has my father and I know of many other older individuals who are tech savvy. Yet this is just one broad example of ageism.
I want to share a video from television sitcom, The Office with the character Michael explaining how to avoid ageism in the workplace:
Ageism in the workplace is a huge issue not only in Canada, but globally. Kathy Buckworth, Chief Family Advisor for Presidents Choice Financial, writes of her experience when on the receiving end of ageism in her workplace. Below her article (Buckworth, 2017) in an embedded video, Examining Age Bias in the Workplace , she also specifically addresses the global aspect in the following age is lacking in the diversity quotient. Only 8% of the 64% employers who had diversities issues listed as important, included age alongside race and gender. (Levy et al, 2013) pointed out that within Facebook’s mandate in treating everyone fairly, age was not mentioned although all other variables were. Within their studies of Facebook ageism was a huge factor!
It is not all bad news. There is some encouragement as shown by (Oró-Piquerasa, M. and Marques, 2017) with their study of some of the highest viewed Youtube videos to see how older individuals were represented. Despite some of these videos continuing the trend of reinforcing stereotypes of ‘old’ people, there were numerous videos that help shed this stereo-type.
Brownell, P. (2014-04-09). Ageism in the Workplace. Encyclopedia of Social Work.Retrieved 27 May. 2017, from http://socialwork.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.001.0001/acrefore-9780199975839-e-844.
Buckworth, K. (2017-01-06). How I Responded When I Was Asked To Recommend A ‘Younger’ Me. Huffington Post: The Blog. Retrieved 27 May. 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/kathy-buckworth/ageism-at-work_b_13996942.html.
Cary, L. A., Chasteen, A. L., & Remedios, J. (2017). The ambivalent ageism scale: Developing and validating a scale to measure benevolent and hostile ageism. The Gerontologist, 57(2), e27-e36. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw118.
Levy, R., Chung. P., Bedford, T. and, Navrazhina, K. Facebook as a Site for Negative Age Stereotypes. Gerontologist 2014; 54 (2): 172-176. doi: 10.1093/geront/gns194.
Oró-Piquerasa, M. and Marques, S.; Images of old age in YouTube:destabilizing stereotypes. Continuum:Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 2017. Vol. 31, No. 2, 257-265.
The Office USA. (2015-07-15). Michael’s Tutorial on Avoiding Ageism//The Office. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j328SwxxQzk. 28 May 2017.