Most people don’t really know a lot about the aspect of aging and its effects on people or in our society theses days. When asked who is growing old? We all are! (Barrow, Smith 3). A lot of people might not believe that but in many minds, growing old, like death only happens to others and it happens to individuals older than us. Medical science and technology are extending life expectancy so that we may all experience long lives, but what would be the quality of our lives? Some old people live in isolation in one room of a slum hotel cooking on a hot plate. Others live in inferior board and care homes dependent on poorly paid attendants to meet their needs (Barrow, Smith 3). On the other hand, many aged enjoy happy lives surrounded by friends and activities. For some people aging may result in self-realization, but for others it may bring despair. We can have more control over the changes aging brings if we are aware of its certainty and how it has been treated and accepted into our society. Furthermore, we need to know about those factors in ourselves and in our environment that can make aging difficult.
A look at the status of the aged in earlier times when age relationships were very different back in the colonial days, the power and privilege of the old age were deeply rooted in colonial times when age not youth was exalted. To be old was to be respected by society and to be eligible for selection to the most important positions in the community. The community leaders and political office holders tended to be old men. The elderly were honored during ceremonial occasions. According to Barrow and Smith the old were believed to be in favor with God, and their long life was an outward sign that they would be “called” or “elected.” The Bible was interpreted to mean that a good person would be rewarded with long life. The tradition of respect for the elderly was rooted not only in religious and political ideology but also in legal and financial reality (Barrow, Smith 5). The elders owned and controlled their land, which did not pass on to their sons until they died. The sons, therefore, had financial reason to show respect and deference to their fathers.
Changes started when there was a clear difference in the political ideology during the time of the enlightenment in the 1700. The principles formulated in the Declaration of Independence became stronger: equality for all in legal, social, and political matters. The significance of old age in religious affairs began to lose hold as doctors and other technicians replaced the preachers as the custodians of virtue (Barrow, Smith 5). These ideological changes were accompanied by the transformation of the society from rural to urban. For example a young man, instead of waiting for his father to provide him with land, could move to the city and find work in a factory. This leads us to the term called “Ageism.”
Ageism can be defined as the aversion, hatred, and prejudice toward the aged and their manifestations in the form of discrimination (Barrow, Smith 7). Ageism is the third “ism.” Racism and sexism are the other two. Racism and sexism prevent racial minorities and women from developing their full potential. Ageism does likewise for the aged individual. Many racial minorities and women have succeeded in spite of prejudice and discrimination; so have many other individuals. But prejudice and discrimination make it hard for them to do so. Ageism can oppress any age. For example if you are young, you may have been told that you are inexperienced or too immature. If you are old, you might also have been told you are out of date or old-fashioned. At both ends of the scale, young or old, you may be the victim of ageism.
Ageism is really a complex phenomenon affected by technology, industrialization, changing family patterns, and increased life expectancy e.t.c. Social change can create a generation gap that contributes to ageism. Rapid social change can cause your values to be somewhat different from your parent’s values and significantly different from your grandparents. Ageism is a destructive force for both society and the individual, if aging is a social problem; it is largely one that the society itself has created.
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