Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



Ageism

Joshua Bains

Ageism means lost professional opportunities, refused credit, medical discrimination, and more. But the effects of how we think about growing old may be far more serious

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

 Mishpacha image

YOUNG AND RESTLESS Researchers, policy makers, and helping professionals question a growing bias toward the supremacy of youth.

Today, life expectancy in New Yorkis 81 years old. If you think that’s good news — you obviously aren’t 81. “Not everyone thinks about ageism,” says clinical gero-psychologist Dr. Paul Chafetz. “But everyone will experience it.”

Ageism is prejudice against someone based on age alone. As in any prejudice, ageism is a blinder, replacing the true depth, abilities, and behavior of older adults with simplified projections and stereotypes.

For example, fixing the retirement age at 65 is ageist. We’re just used to it. But there are many people who continue to work after this limit, and others, such as American commercial pilots, who are obliged to retire despite immaculate records, superior skills, and experience.Australia, for example, has no age limit — just medical and flight exams.

In a telling 2006 lawsuit, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission litigated against Exxon Mobil, a company that had grounded all pilots over 60 years of age. Although the lawsuit claimed that age is not a valid measure of a pilot’s quality, in 2014 a federal court ruled its policies are not age discrimination for two reasons: Because the age cut off is “reasonably necessary to the normal operation of the particular business,” and because it’s “impossible or highly impracticable to deal with the older employees on an individualized basis.”

This ruling sets two worrying precedents. That older people interfere with our “normal operation” and that they are “impossible or highly impracticable to deal with.”

It’s not just in the workforce. Imagine going to an orthopedist to complain about your knee. You’re in pain, but are told: “It’s just old age.” That answer would never satisfy us in our 40’s – when it would never be offered anyway. But a study of physicians in training who worked with elderly people found reactions like this: “It’s always a bigger save when you help a 35-year-old woman with kids than it is to bring an altered 89-year-old with a urinary tract infection back to her semi-altered state.” 

When Dr. Chafetz mentions this patient’s ability to walk away from his business, the man starts crying.

What’s “a bigger save” got to do with the Hippocratic Oath? Ageist attitudes debilitate a doctor’s care and professionalism, and many studies prove it. Discrimination against seniors affects people of all ages, whether they realize it or not. Does age perception effect longevity? Is there a link between age stereotypes and memory? How is ageism changing society, especially economically? Researchers, policy makers, and helping professionals ask these questions against a growing bias toward the supremacy of youth.

Related Stories

What’s a Woman Doing Here?

Five women — a skipper, a mathematics professor, a biomedical researcher, a house painter, and a mor...

Patience Unwired

Atira Rappaport

I’ve lost patience because I’ve allowed the Internet to become a central feature in my life. There, ...

In Search of the Hidden Yidden

Eytan Kobre

For Rabbi Abie Iktin, summer’s end means one thing: Elul’s here, and he’s off to bring his lost brot...

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


 
Top-Down Theory
Shoshana Friedman Our true currency, the accomplishments we value most
Strive for What Binds Us
Yonoson Rosenblum The chareidi community represents something of an oasis
Embracing Victimhood
Eytan Kobre Combating the allure of victimhood
The Kids Are Going to Camp, the Parents Are Going Broke
Miriam Klein Adelman Mindy has to feel good; it doesn’t matter that I feel ba...
Work/Life Solutions with Carlos Wigle
Moe Mernick “Rejection is Hashem’s protection” 
How to Create a Simple 900-Page Novel
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman All of us can reset the titles of our own lives
Stand There or Do Something
Baruch S. Fertel, MD, MPA, FACEP It’s called collaborative care, and it works miracles
I'm Here — Are You Ready?
Riki Goldstein Upbeat and catchy, but still makes listeners think
Back in Time
Riki Goldstein "I wish I could recapture that excitement"
Mixed Messages
Riki Goldstein The unsung craftsmen who give albums their special touch
Go in Peace
Faigy Peritzman Inner peace makes us vessels for blessing
All Work and No Play
Sarah Chana Radcliffe A life only about doing your duties loses all its color
Dying to Believe
With Rav Moshe Wolfson, written by Baila Vorhand Emunah peshutah is the force behind Jewish continuity