Ageism, in a general sense, is the discrimination against a person on the basis of their age. While this can apply to anyone in any age group, most often, the victims of ageism are seniors. Ageism against seniors is not always taken seriously. Like all stereotypes, there is a danger that lurks beneath. Understanding the three types of ageism and their impacts is critical for protecting the mental and physical health of yourself and your loved ones.
Macro-Level: Institutional Ageism
Institutional ageism is ageism that occurs on the highest level and usually appears as official organization policies or cultural beliefs. Most notably, doctors will sometimes decrease or delay a senior’s access to healthcare. Often, this is due to the idea that the aches, pains, and worries of older adults are merely a part of aging. But in reality, these symptoms point to serious illnesses that need attention. This delayed access to life-saving procedures has caused the death of too many seniors.
Institutional ageism can also be seen at a policy level, with hospitals denying seniors healthcare because of limited resources. The idea is that using limited resources on a senior is a waste as they are close to the end-of-life stages anyway. These heartbreaking ideologies are rampant in modern society, and you should immediately find another doctor if you feel like you’re being denied medical care due to your age.
Meso-Level: Interpersonal Ageism
Interpersonal ageism occurs between individuals. This usually appears as jokes or comments in everyday interactions. Typically, this form of ageism occurs in the workplace and can lead to seniors getting fired in order to gain a “fresh perspective.” On one end, this can leave older adults feeling useless and insecure, and on the extreme end, it can leave seniors jobless and even homeless. While there are laws in place to protect older adults (40 plus) from being discriminated against in the workplace, that doesn’t stop the hurtful comments and interactions that occur in their social networks.
Micro-Level: Personal Ageism
Personal ageism is an internalized attitude toward yourself. It includes the personal ideas and beliefs you have about your age, usually in relation to what you can and can’t do. For example, some seniors will refuse to get a new phone or smart technology due to a fear that they won’t be able to use or understand it. The belief that you can or can’t do something based simply on your age may be stopping you from pursuing the things that you want to achieve. These attitudes and beliefs can impact self-confidence and lead to isolation and depression.
While you may not see or notice the three types of ageism and their impacts on your everyday life, that doesn’t mean they aren’t there or that they don’t affect people every day. If you’re a senior, or if you have loved ones that are seniors, pay attention to how the world interacts with older adults. Noticing the effects and the dangers may help you keep your peace and save your physical and mental health.