Getting older is not to be laughed at. It’s time to fight back at the prejudice involved. Posted on April 26, 2019April 26, 2019 by Peter Meadows How did I miss it? How did I get sucked in to happily regard those growing older as the subject for mirth at their expense? After all, I joined the rush to end racist and sexist stereotypes. Off limits now are blonds, the Irish, mothers in law and more. Yet meanwhile it’s still fine for those in their later years to be mocked for being so. Lines like ‘Jim was so old he’d signed up to Twitter to leave short, grumpy messages for people he didn’t like’. Funny on the surface. But all part of creating a negative image of those who are older. But being the target for humour is a small part of a much bigger picture. It’s far from the only way those of advancing years are marginalised or demeaned. Pointing to the constant stream of ageist advertising and workplace attitudes, author Marc Middleton, a champion of the US Growing Bolder movement says, ‘We have been programmed to believe that, beyond a certain age and by design, we lose strength, power, intellect and passion. But none of these things have nothing to do with age.’ Does this ageism matter? Oh yes! There are two distinct ways in which all this is ‘not funny’. Not funny at all. First, ageism shapes the way society values – or not – those who are older. My wake up call to this serious issue came from author Louise Morse in her important new book, What’s Age Got To Do With It (BRF). Here Louise does more than identify the evil of discrimination simply because someone is old. She also champions the need to restore and champion ‘elder hood’. Elderhood, Louise explains, is one step up from adulthood. It is a season richer, more meaningful and with something distinct and positive to contribute. A time of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’. More than that, Louise challenges us to see the richness of God’s plan for those in their later years. As she puts it, ‘God has created a human lifecycle that the longer people live the more they learn and the more wisdom they gather. Living to old age creates the qualities that God intends to benefit the rest of society.’ Yet that’s not how we, the ‘older ones’, are seen or treated – with ageist ‘humour’ contributing to the misconception. And with prejudice and discrimination fanning the flames. Second, ageism reduces our own view as to our value and ability to contribute. Whatever our age, what we believe about ourselves impacts what we will do and achieve. If the noise in our ears keeps telling us we are ‘beyond it’, need to be ‘put out to pasture’, are over the ‘hill then’, and ‘past our ‘sell by date’ then that’s how we are most likely to behave. We start to settle for the slippers, blanket, fireside and Werther’s Originals despite there being much more life to be lived. When it comes to apportioning blame for the way things are, we need to take it on the chin. That’s because we have colluded in letting insipid ageism run rampant. We’ve bought the greetings cards, laughed at the jokes, sat on our hands, and held our tongues when we should have done none of those things. What should we do? Here are the top three ways I want to try to live by from now on and which I recommend to you – Stand tall and refuse to believe the lie: Think how much more you know, how much more wisdom you have gathered and how your character has matured, since you were half your present age. And, therefore, think how much more of those vital commodities – knowledge, wisdom and maturity – you have than those half you age at this very moment. Added to this, take note of what you are contributing. To quote Louise again, those like you are ‘helping support their adult children, contributing to their communities and boosting the national Exchequer by billions of pounds each year. And many charities would collapse without their voluntary work – itself worth billions a year.’ So as you move from adulthood to elderhood, make a commitment to do so with a mind-set that says, ‘I’ve much to offer and they are lucky to have me!’ Refuse to play by ‘their’ rules: That means no longer laughing at jokes made at the expense of those in their later years – or, at least, trying hard not to. And no longer sending your peers birthday cards with negative messages like ‘I’m not saying you are old but you are starting to smell of wee’ – no matter how funny. Even better, be subversive – launch a range of greetings cards with positive messages about the glory and value of the later years. If ever there was a gap in the market, this is a big one. Speak out: It’s not easy to confront the unthinking words of others. But a quiet word in season may be called for. Those made in God’s image, and for whom he has plans, deserve to be defended. Easier is to respond to media gatekeepers – praising examples of the positive portrayal of those who are older. And identifying when the opposite happens. And in case you should think this is all rather trivial, from someone with a shallow sense of humour who needs to get a life, please think again. The widespread and sinister practice of ageism damages the health and wellbeing of older people. This can be seen in the way – Age is increasingly becoming the deciding factor as to whether cancer treatment is worth the money. The UN has encouraged nations to prioritise health care in favour of the young. Ageism has been shown to cause cardiovascular stress, lowered levels of self-efficacy and decreased productivity. Research shows older adults with a negative attitude about ageing may live 7.5 years less than those with a positive attitude. This is why growing older is not to be laughed at. And why it’s time to fight back. If this issue seems important to you, please share this blog by using the links below. Louise Morse’s book can be bought through sellers like Amazon and Eden or use this link. Have you seen ageism, or been on the receiving end? Do you have ways of responding, or other suggestions? Please do share them here or on our Facebook group. Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.