Monday, September 1, 2014

AGEISM: As Dangerous as Sexism and Racism

Stopping by a local library several days ago, decided to wander the aisles as I've done since I was a small child. A habit that's become a great life gift I suggest everyone pick up.

On one shelftop was a book standing on display by itself. I wasn't looking for any specific subject, title or writer but this book caught my eye and I'm glad it did:

AGEWISE:  Fighting the New Ageism in America by Margaret Morganroth Gullette

It's not a quick read and some areas may need to be reread. Ms. Gullette, in my opinion, shows many of our life challenges for what they really are -- we used to call them "prejudices" but then new labels added "ism" to many words like : sexism, racism and yes, ageism.

DEMENTIA. The belief this affliction cannot be managed, delayed or avoided leads to AGEISM which classifies anyone beyond the age of 50 as "questionable" as to what they can learn and what they still retain.

SHIFTED "ISM" FROM SEXISM TO AGEISM.  In the 1960's when women were pushing for an Equal Rights Amendment, the outcry was heard, "If a woman takes a job, she takes it from a man. There won't be enough jobs to go around."

Today, with the repercussions from the "Great Recession", the outcry has become from the young who've gone to college and can't find a job, "If old people don't retire, don't get out of the job they hold, there won't be one for me and my friends. They don't need to work. They have Social Security and Pensions."

Sadly, many need to work. Gladly, many want to remain working. 

The "Great Recession" and the economic downturns the now 65+ men and women faced and survived, albeit without savings or retirement programs due to the financial losses of the 70's, 80's and 90's and the continual cost of living skyrocketing, makes working a lot longer a necessity for many and a "cushion" for some. Sure, there are a few privileged people who made it through all those times; many, however, inherited small and not so small amounts from parents and other relatives so they have a larger "cushion".

For those not so fortunate, for those who've struggled with great losses including the most recent stock/retirement losses and let's not forget those losses from the Financial companies who "went under" and took with them life savings and retirement plans from many who could least afford the loss -- it's a matter of a NEED TO WORK as much as it is a desire to work.

HOW WE LONG TO HEAR THOSE ADS:  FIFTY OR EVEN SIXTY IS THE NEW FORTY.  All the products to "keep" and extend youth now being sold to those with an ever voracious appetite to "be young forever" and who welcome the latest, the greatest and the newest creams, rubs, injections and augmentations because, they're being told, "ageing" starts to show on your face, your neck, your arms, in your body, as early as 30!

POOR, DEAR, GULLIBLE 20 SOMETHINGS.  Love the age group. Have a daughter in it. But many are really too, too, susceptible to what they hear, read and are constantly exposed to in the so many forms of media. At least my generation had less exposure to constant and incessant "dictation" of what was expected, desired, needed, required -- simply to make it through each day. Oh, we had "expectations" of "general society" but we didn't have the incessant and never ending 24/7 in-your-face cannot escape and cannot get past constant poking and prodding to buy, consume, get, wants/needs, of today's "average person".

THE FACT IS. The world is changing at the fastest pace ever experienced. There used to be manufacturing revolutions but they took time and allowed people to learn, to grow and to adapt. Today, you'd better be a Chameleon and change immediately like those creatures featured on the TV commercial for the paint -- constantly changing as they move from one to another color just as we're supposed to immediately become saavy on various and varying types of equipment, technological systems and procedures.

LEFT BEHIND.  Even the 20 somethings are being "left behind". In today's world, the 8-10 year old kid may be in a classroom where he/she uses a computer at his/her desk and the teacher has auto and random access to "see" what the student is doing. That "kid" is becoming capable of replacing the 20 something's work by the time they're in their mid teens. The bar moves lower while the expectations move higher.

TALK ABOUT EXPECATIONS.  After all, if the teacher doesn't have to move from desk to desk to "look at" the work, or can "correct it as it's being done" ----why, that opens up more time in which the teacher and the student can do more, more and even more!

FASTER ISN'T ALWAYS BETTER.  NEW ISN'T ALWAYS BEST.  Producing goods faster didn't make them better, it often meant the garment or product could be produced cheaper because a machine handling the product could put together less durable items faster. After all, inventions and adjustments to design can be made faster. A vicious cycle followed by the desire for cheaper and cheaper goods and so the work follows the path where cheaper and cheaper labor can be obtained.

JOBS AREN'T BEING "TAKEN OVER" BY THOSE NOT LEAVING, they're leaving because people believe they should have more and pay less. Eventually they get less quality, durability and spend a lot more, but because they're forever chasing that "gold ring" on the merry-go-round they've been put on and chose to stay on, the ride becomes longer and the people go from very young to very old.


History has always been one of the best teachers in society. Take a close look at those that set aside knowledge and disvalued people who reached a level of competency. The society slowed, broke down and eventually collapsed.

LISTEN. WATCH. LEARN.  How can you when all those around you are protecting their job, their advancement and their "future"? That's what happens when everyone is "homogeneous" in age or approx. age. Ever try to get someone your age you worked with to "share" information, systems, procedures?  Ever feel they were undermining you if they weren't mentoring you? Organizations where competition surpasses cooperation and value of the group along with the individual find themselves constantly struggling and moving in directions that take them down side paths instead of towards the goal.

BUSINESS LEADERHSHIP NOW FOCUSES ON "COOPERATION" AND "INDIVIDUAL RESPONSBILITY" as those were brand new ideas and attributes. My Mom worked on a line producing parts for airplanes during WWII and those were the same guidelines and standards she was taught. It's not a new idea, it's simply more necessary because people are in survival mode and jobs are tight, advancements are scarce.

AS FOR ME.  I'M A CHAMELEON.  I'M A COCKROACH.  Adaptable and a survivor.

Bring it on world!  Growing older means I've seen what you haven't; I've done what you haven't and I know what you'll struggle to find out and make mistakes, just as I did, when you could have asked, consulted, valued and said, "ISM's of race, sex or age don't belong in the life I want to live."

Age, if you're fortunate physically and mentally, is only a mark on a calendar. As long as you can, DO IT, as long as you want to, TRY IT!  And for those who along the way make the same kind of "IST" remarks - sexist, racist and ageist -- show them with our words and deeds, your abilities and experience, they're the real losers in life as you've found what's most important -- EVERYONE, EVERY AGE.

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