One of our great struggles today—and throughout the last few hundred years—is against discrimination. Topics like racism and sexism are a part of our everyday life, and rightfully so. However, there is another kind of discrimination that I never hear talked about—even though statistically it is the most common type in the world.
In fact, according to a 2001 study by Duke University, 80 percent of people in the US over age 60 have experienced discrimination based on their age. Most commonly, this sort of thing happens in the workplace. During the recession a few years ago, companies were looking for ways to cut expenses. I knew a lot of older people who were fired only a few years or even months from their pensions, even though they’d been doing good work, in many cases for several decades. Essentially, the company broke its promise to them in order to get out of paying their pension… and I saw this over and over again.
I should add that all of this is in spite of the fact that the 60+ group has been found to be no less healthy, less educated, or less skillful than any other age group.
But not only is the 60+ group the most discriminated against, but it is also the fastest-growing. Since 1960, the average life expectancy has risen from 68 all the way to 80 as of 2017—and it’s expected to be about 86 by the year 2025. By then, that age group is supposed to reach about 1.2 billion—50 percent of whom have no savings whatsoever—and if the pattern holds, 80 percent of them will experience discrimination!
The worst part of all this is probably the physiological effect it has on its victims. Studies have indicated that when a person is discriminated against because of their age, they lose seven and a half years of their life! This is such a powerful example of how destructive stress can be to our bodies, and it’s incredible that it can happen to so many people, and yet is hardly ever talked about—at least in comparison to things like racism and sexism.
So what is our role in this? How do you prioritize ageism? Should we put it ahead of other types of discrimination that typically see more discussion? Well, I certainly don’t have the answers, but I think you either stand for all of it or none of it. When you get right down to it, discrimination is discrimination. The reasons behind different types might be important to acknowledge, but they don’t really change the basic nature of the problem.
This week, I would advise you to try looking at the problem from another direction. Take some time to look at the people in your life and look for any kind of discrimination, not just one of the specific kinds we’re always hearing about. Ask yourself why you think of your friends, family, and acquaintances the way you do. Try to allow yourself to see them in the best possible light while still being truthful, and try to find the differences in how you normally think of them. Is it all because of their present character, or is your perception being colored by something else?
Have a blessed, wonderful day!