Discrimination Against the Elderly

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Discrimination against the Elderly
American society has been described as maintaining a stereotypic and often negative perception of older adults. This negative and/or stereotypic perception of aging and aged individuals is apparent in such areas as language, media, and humor. For example, such commonly used phrases as over the hill and an old fart denote old age as a period of impotency and incompetence. The term used to describe this stereotypic and often negative bias against older adults is ageism. Ageism can be defined as "any attitude, action, or institutional structure, which subordinates a person or group because of age or any assignment of roles in society purely on the basis of age"(Webster 25). As an ism, ageism reflects a prejudice in society against older adults. The victims of bigotry and prejudice are generally referred to as minorities. This is not because they are necessarily fewer in number, but because they are deprived of the rights and privileges of the majority (the Aged 4). Ageism, however, is different from other isms (sexism, racism etc.), for primarily two reasons. First, age classification is not static. An individual's age classification changes as one progresses through life. Therefore, age classification is characterized by continual change, while the other classification systems traditionally used by society such as race and gender remain constant. From this we can conclude that denial of old age is a principal source of bigotry against those who are old now (the Aged 4). Second, no one is exempt from at some point achieving the status of old. Unless they die at an early age, they will experience ageism. The later is an important distinction as ageism can affect an individual on two levels. First, the individual may be ageist with respect to others. That is they may stereotype other people on the basis of age. Second, the individual may be ageist with respect to self so ageist attitudes may affect the self-concept. "We live in a...
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