Imagine it’s a family gathering: over fifty relatives are gathered in a room, huddling around the television screen. Suddenly, the chanting of the stadium-crowd halts and the screen turns pitch black; the television is broken. A seventy-something year-old uncle shouts, “Try hitting it.”. An aunt chides in, “That will just break it!”, followed by a random “you don’t know anything about TVs”. You suggest turning it off to let it reboot, but your mother says that will never work. If this scenario is familiar to you in any sort, you experienced ageism. In fact, if you were able to imagine this event, then you saw ageism on display.
According to Merriam-Webster, ageism is “prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group”. Robert Neil Butler coined this term in 1969 to highlight the discrimination that the elderly faced (e.g. being stubborn just because they are old). Yet, for our modern day society, ageism is often described as discrimination against someone or a group of people based on their age. So, why is this important?
In an era where we use the term millenial as a synonym for being soft, naive, and sometimes even bratty, it is an issue. It is often stated that the youth are the foundation of society; they are who the old will rely on. Yet, due to ageism, youth are often perceived as unknowledgeable. The issue with this is that voices are silenced -- the voices of our world’s future.
So, how can society end the cycle of ageism? Listen to the youth with open ears and try putting their words into action. A great example of groups that are combating ageism are those such as Youth Create, Innova Youth, etc. When youth are put at the forefront of ageism, this pushes new ideas. However, it’s also important to realize that ageism can occur to those who are considered elderly. Thus, it’s necessary for all sides to be heard and to support the movements based upon actions and not age-group. If the age barrier were to deteriorate, then there is a greater chance for knowledge to be shared, ideas to be formed, and people to unite despite their differences.