THE BLOG

Institutional Ageism Is Still Prevalent - It's Time We Woke Up

08/11/2016 11:47

One of the most striking social trends I have observed over the last two decades is the way in which Britain's over 65s have transformed how they live their lives.

Today's over 65s work full time, go to rock concerts, follow the latest fashion trends, travel to unusual destinations and enthusiastically embrace social media.

We recently conducted research into how the concept of ageing in society is changing and one of the respondents summed this trend up perfectly.

She noted that "my mother was an old lady at 50, but at the same age my daughter is a high flying lawyer travelling the world."

In short, 'old' is no longer defined by age or retirement. People are living far more active and independent lives in their later years.

Better healthcare, changing social expectations and higher disposable income are just some of the reasons for this trend.

I can think of many over 65s doing extraordinary things in their later years. Eddy Diget, 71, who works for DW Fitness Clubs, is one of them. He is one of the oldest master trainers in the country, teaching people about health and fitness, but there are many more.

Yet despite this massive cultural shift in the way over 65s live their lives, I believe institutional ageism is still entrenched in society. And it's something we all have to play a part in helping to address.

I believe that businesses, the public sector, and the media and marketing community continue to treat those aged 65 and older as a single collective. This means that they so often miss opportunities to communicate more effectively with them.

Jeremy Paxman's recent outburst about the elderly encapsulates this perfectly. Despite being 66, he noted pensioners "are virtual corpses" on the verge of "incontinence and idiocy".

This kind of comment simply doesn't reflect the cultural reality that being over 60 no longer somehow signifies 'end of life', a sentiment that Dame Esther Rantzen agrees with.

The 76 year old television presenter and founder of The Silver Line charity believes that society has a problem with those in their later years and I wholeheartedly agree with her.

Every time I turn on the television or read the paper I continue to be amazed by how quick people are to lump everyone 'above a certain age' in the same bracket.

The term 'retiree' is an accurate descriptor of people who have retired from employment. It does not, however, describe the lifestyle, taste, interest and health of every person aged 65 and above.

In exactly the same way that a 20 year old may not share the same opinion as a 40 year old, the views, activities, hobbies and capabilities of a person at 70 are often completely different from someone aged 90.

One's age does not determine one's abilities at any stage of life - so society needs to make sure that it doesn't make that assumption about older people.

There are lots of people in their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond leading active and fulfilling lives and we all hope we will be one of them one day.

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