There’s a new “ism” make the rounds—it’s called “ageism.”
Just like sexism and racism, ageism discriminates against a specific group within our society, namely the elderly.
Any form of discrimination must be challenged and overcome.
Ageism is defined as discrimination on the basis of age that:
•makes assumptions about capacity;
•removes decision-making processes;
•ignores an older person’s known wishes; and
•treats the older adult as a child.
What are some of these assumptions? Well, it would appear that:
•older adults cannot drive and are a danger on the roads;
•older adults are in poor health and a drain on the health-care system;
•older people need some kind of walking aid to get around freely; and/or
•they are perceived as incapable of thinking clearly, of learning new things, enjoying sex, contributing to the community, or holding responsible jobs.
The media and advertising industry play their part in promoting the stereotyping of the elderly; let’s see if we can dispel some of the myths.
In 2010 after a tragic accident involving an elderly driver, the media made much of a Transport Canada report which indicated that between 1988 and 1998, the number of fatal accidents involving elderly drivers increased by 50 percent.
What the media did not say was that the number of elderly drivers had almost doubled in that same period, and that their accident rate—the true indication of accident statistics—actually had dropped.
There was a prime example of how the incomplete use of data can be used to promote a specific belief about a group i society (i.e., elderly drivers are unsafe).
How about the cost to health care? Here it’s worth noting the evidence of Marc Lee, senior economist for the Canada Centre for Policy Alternatives, given during Senate hearings on Canada’s aging population.
“A pervasive myth needs to be put to rest,” Lee stated. “Our aging population will not be responsible for the collapse of health care as we know it.
“Although health care costs have increased significantly in recent years, these increases have primarily been due to an expansion of health-care services, population growth, and health-care specific inflation,” he stressed.
“In comparison, the impact of population aging is a relatively small factor driving health-care costs.”
The advertising industry, meanwhile, tends to portray the elderly as frail, forgetful, and having weak bladders.
Accepting these myths and stereotyping leads to marginalizing of the targeted group. And in the case of seniors, can make them more prone to abuse and the attention of “scam artists.”
One of the goals of the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (S.A.L.T.) group is to dispel the myths associated with aging, and to promote a safe environment in which seniors can live.
The next S.A.L.T. meeting will be held Tuesday, May 31 at 11 a.m. at the Super 8 Motel. All seniors are welcome to attend.