Ageism and the World

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Cultures around the world treat the elderly in different ways. Generally, there is an inverse relationship between the level of modernization and that country’s treatment of the elderly. This was confirmed by research that compared the status of elderly in countries with differing levels of industrialization. Ageism is found cross-culturally but is most prevalent and of concern in the United States and United Kingdom. Older citizens in such countries are often regarded with fear and anxiety. Minimal research has been done on ageism in comparison to research on sexism and racism. The main reason for this is that age prejudice is still considered socially acceptable by most. Old age in these countries is approached with dread and as a social problem, rather than a natural process.1 Ageism in other developed countries is on the rise. In Japan, experienced elderly workers are becoming homeless because employers are too concerned about age. Australians also have widespread negative attitudes towards the elderly. The media is often responsible for ageism-related problems by perpetuating myths and focusing on negatives. Other cultures still treat elders with respect and reverence. In Botswana, the elderly are considered wise and greetings towards them are always more respectful. Even the first gray hair is considered lucky. Some tribes in southern Africa believe that old age as a sign of approaching the real world of the spirits. China and Japan usually treat elders with more respect as their age is recognized as a source of prestige and honor. The Japanese believe that one can only master an art during middle age. Although no culture is completely respectful to the elderly, some have far more serious problems than others. The difficulty of curing negative ageist attitudes in the modern world has already become nearly impossible in the short term.
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