Ageism-Just too Young!

Ageism is discrimination based on age. This has been somewhat accepted by society against elders. But is the youth also victim to age discrimination?

When we were younger, we would discriminate against the elders. Actually even now that we’re older, some of use continue to discriminate. It seems almost acceptable to treat our elders differently.

We may think that they’re just not as capable as the youth, not as sharp, not as lively, not as whatever’s we don’t like. So we treat them differently. Ya, we do. We can show ‘care’, but it can be patronizing, and condescending. We may talk down to them, get upset with their decisions, like not going to doctors (I soooo struggle with this one). We may have conversations with our ‘equals’ about how our parents are behaving like children…really? And treat ‘them’ like this, even when they’re ‘all there’ mentally. And where elders were previously respected for the knowledge they carried in work settings, now-a-days there’s also challenges in employment, such as:

  • being ‘let go’ (I prefer ‘let go’ to terminated, laid-off, restructured..)
  • difficulty re-entering workforce
  • isolation — excluded from ‘young’ groups/activities
  • or the ‘dreaded’ working for a younger person (btw this is super awesome, they can be funner!)

Many of us feel do feel that it’s wrong to treat our elders with disrespect. But still, we have more acceptance of ageism towards the elderly.

Perhaps like other prejudices, we discriminate because we don’t actually understand. We don’t understand who ‘they’ are, since we are not as old as they are…yet. We haven’t walked in their shoes.

But why do we discriminate against the youth? We did walk in their shoes. We were younger once.  We know the struggles. We get the insecurities, and undeveloped confidences. Don’t we? Why do we discriminate against the younger versions of humanity, the younger versions of who we may have been?

As a 11 year old babysitter, was the first time I really felt slighted by my age. I was waiting in the living room for the ‘adults’ to head out. The kid’s mother, got irate with me there, and demanded that I leave the room when the adults were speaking. And no, the conversation wasn’t X-rated, or of any real consequence. I wasn’t used to this at home, as my parents always treated me the way they do now.

As a 18 year old restaurant manager, a customer became ‘offended’ that I came to help. Before I had a chance to say anything, he yelled out that he didn’t want to talk to a kid, so I brought an older manager.

As a 21 year old in a multi-national firm, a provider complained to my manager that he didn’t want to deal with a kid on the phone. I still have a very young voice, still get asked by telemarketers in their cutesy voices “can we talk to your parents”?

I’ve always had issues with my age, or rather the appearance of my age. I was usually mistaken for being much younger. At 21, I was pulled over by the police, cause I looked too young to drive; hmmm, is there somekind of ‘profiling’ that happen there?

Even my report card in kindergarten stated that I was too young. And after 40, well that’s when I really started to notice youth ageism.

The 1st time I experienced judgements based on my ‘apparent age’, I was on a movie set (nope, I’m not an actress, I was an extra). A 40+ woman was chatting loudly with her friend about dumb young girls. Felt like they were staring at me, but I was too busy wiping off some foundation to really listen. The statements that grabbed my attention were: “Do you think they’ll get special attention when they’re older…so rude…they even take off the foundation that the makeup artist applied.)….whaaaat?!

I can’t remember exactly what I said to them, but resulted in all our ages being ‘exposed’. I was definitely older.

Well, they COMPLETELY changed their attitudes. Other than looking seriously meakish, they started to be ‘friendly’. The fakest ‘friendly’ ever. What’s worse is how they started to talk ‘cool’, whatever that is. YUK! It seemed to me, that they were never young, and never had ‘special treatment’; I didn’t even know what the special treatment was that I was getting. Oh, maybe it was the caked on foundation, that they felt THEY NEEDED!

Ya, I’m still kind of upset over their judgements, but mostly since I’ve seen more of that kind of behaviour towards myself and others since that day.  What’s worse is that, even though I’ve experienced this discrimination — I did the same recently! Geeze! Or almost the same, given my own experience.

I was searching financial advice. I was forwarded to a voicemail of a ‘girl’ with a young voice. I hung up. I felt she may not be capable to ‘handle’ this big person task.

Then thought, what am I doing?! The ‘girl’ could’ve been in her 20s, 30s, 40s, or whatever, why did this even matter? I was definitely very capable in my 20s, why wouldn’t she be? I then understood why I got/get treated the way I do. Shame on me for ever even having the thought. And, yes I did call back, and ‘girl’ capable indeed.

Similar to older people experiencing work place discrimination, so does the young. Where an older person may get more attention in terms of knowledge transfer, it seems the youth are left to fend for themselves. The older people also gossip, pass judgements and exclude the young from they’re groups. In fact, the older people ostracize the young more so than the other way around.

We have, and will live through different ages.  Unlike most other prejudices, ageism is one that we may all experience.

Would love to hear your story, or how you handle ageism.

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