Age Old Prejudice

May 30th

There are some things about yourself that you are just too ashamed to admit. Like the time I stole a red lipstick from a department store when I was 15 – it still bothers me; the choice of colour was terrible! I jest, but the actual act of stealing still plays on my mind: why did I do it? Maybe because I was young, easily influenced and couldn’t make my own judgment calls. I blame it on being young and immature.

But I am older now and yet there are still things that continue to shame and disappoint me about myself. Some I haven’t been aware of and recently one of them just hit me from out of the blue. I didn’t even know how bad it was. It’s difficult to confess, and not something I like to publicly admit, but I am prejudiced.

I’m ageist.

This is a little ironic given I am 47, so no spring chicken, but there it is: I am intolerant towards the aged. I am insanely impatient and I like things going at a fast pace. I don’t like to be held up at a shopping aisle, on an escalator or in a bank. I need to be places yesterday and the aged seem to have so much more time and this gets in my way.

I now know this is prejudice. I group them all into one slow basket: prejudiced attitude at its core. I know this and I’m ashamed of it. Again more justification, but how could I be anything but? How can any of us? We have been taught these attitudes since we can walk and talk. “Look at that slow old coot crossing the road.” “Move over ya old man.” Catch cry of many frustrated drivers. We’ve been shown and taught that age is not such a great thing by our social environment and the media, and most of us, if not all, have been acting accordingly.

Why do we treat the aged like this? Why do we turn on our own kind? We will be there soon enough.

A colleague said to me the other day that no one wants to admit they’re old or getting old because that means they’re getting closer to death and nobody wants to be closer to death. True, who wants to acknowledge this? It’s too confronting. But the problem with our western society is that there is no time for death. No acceptance or space to honour and value the difficult flipside to life: to live we must die. We are focused on living and living only. Yet we all die, both young and old. Death is not ageist.

We have to learn to value each other for what we bring to the table at every stage of our lives. Since beginning work at The Change Agenda, it’s educated me to think about how I view older people and how younger people now view me. I’m slowly trying to unwrap my prejudice and make some atonement for past sins. But it’s not just making up for bad behaviour; it’s about shifting and altering the mindset. It’s about a systemic shift across society.

Our community needs to embrace all those that walk amongst us for a richer and more engaged society. I need to slow down when someone who walks beside me cannot keep up – for are we not going in the same direction?

Because before long, I will need someone to slow down for me so I can get there too.