What does “old” mean?  For demographic purposes, the age of 65 has been chosen.  It was somewhat arbitrary, a combination of the choices made by the Reichstag and Otto von Bismark in 1881 Germany, a later adjustment, and what was decided in 1935 by the US Congress and the Roosevelt administration.  In reality, age is determined by genetics, stressors, environment, life style, and social standing.  Chronologic age is not nearly so important as biologic age, the accumulated wear and tear.

Ageism is defined as the prejudices and stereotypes based on characteristics shared by only a few members of the older population, yet are applied to all older people on the basis of their chronologic age.   It is quite clearly false.  I would compare it to racism and sexism. Chronologically higher age-number people are portrayed in negative, inaccurate, or stereotypical ways.  They are typically characterized as sick, feeble, opinionated, disagreeable, and living in the past.  They garner no respect and may be ignored, the belief being that they have nothing to offer and that their age defines their capability and roles.
They may be portrayed as gray haired, slow, wrinkly, and saggy.

Traditional culture tended to value and take instruction from the elderly.  They were a valued resource. The current youth oriented culture tends to view aging as an illness rather than a natural process.  

Each of us needs to come to terms with our own feelings regarding aging.
The only just approach is to assume every person is an individual with unique strengths, weaknesses, choice, and opportunities. Even a person that is very disabled with Alzheimer’s disease may have intact emotions.  Those feelings should be respected and people treated with dignity, no matter what the level of disability.


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