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Ageism – Are Old Women Their Own Worst Enemies?

By Maureen Atkinson May 23, 2023 Mindset

We have all seen commercials like this one before… Three older women in an empty restaurant, confused and asking, “Where is the bacon?” I wanted to shout, “Where’s the representation?” Is that how companies think older women should look and behave? As an older woman, I was pissed off! This is another offensive commercial!

Age Representation

It’s no secret that ageism is the last big prejudice that’s socially acceptable. I’ve seen women labeled as stupid, but this ad just goes to show how unrealistic the advertising world is and how completely out of touch the people behind it are. I think it’s a result of forced retirement, which is degrading to seniors, especially when they have no say in it.

While there has been progress in the diversification of the workforce at every level, age is rarely a part of the inclusion conversation. This is often based on the assumption that older people lose cognitive abilities, which is simply not true. Many people remain able to contribute well into their 80s and 90s. Consider Jane Goodall or Frank Gehry. Both are fortunate to have worked for themselves rather than being packaged at 65. 

Older people are the fastest-growing demographic on the planet. In 2020, the majority of European countries’ populations aged 65 and over accounted for 20% or more of their total population, outnumbering those aged under 14 years.

Older residents made up nearly 17% of the US population in 2020. This growth of the world’s older groups will continue as life expectancy improves around the world. Life expectancy in most developed countries is greater than 80 years, with Monaco and Hong Kong at the top, where life expectancy is 87 years and 86 years respectively.

Why Is No One Paying Attention

With the growing opportunity of potential customers and workers, why has there been so little action to recognize the value of these resources? Some of the issues driving ageist attitudes are…

Lack of Awareness of Longevity

Half of the people over 65 now will live into their 90s, meaning these lives have at least 25 more years of purchasing power.

Assumptions of Physical Ability

Aging comes with changes in physical ability. But, with breakthroughs in research and science, activity remains well into our 80s and 90s.

Implicit Association of Older Age and Loss of Mental Acuity

While Alzheimer and Dementia are mostly found in older adults, these are extreme conditions. For example, only 7.1% of Canadians are affected by these conditions. The idea that our mental ability declines with age has been debunked in books like Strength to Strength.

Author Arthur Brooks points out that our mental capacity changes as we age. We go from fluid, fast thinking intelligence to crystalized intelligence which is slower but integrates experience and could be called wisdom. Our mental capacity is different, not worse.

Changing Ageist Attitudes

If logic and trends suggest that ageism is outmoded thinking, why does it still persist? Are older people guilty of reinforcing stereotypes that are being used to limit them? How many times have you heard older people attribute forgetfulness or physical aches and pains to “getting old”? As if younger people never forget or have aches. If there is going to be a movement to fight ageism, it must start with older people refusing to accept the stereotypes thrust on them.

There are signals of real change about ageist attitudes. It has started with change makers like Jane Fonda, who has been outspoken all her life despite being involved in one of the most ageist, sexist industries. She has now become actively vocal about making sure that older women are portrayed with dignity and respect.

Using her clout in the entertainment industry she is creating real stories about their lives. What she is doing is critical to changing attitudes. By making the message entertaining, it is much easier to get it across.

In addition, there is new messaging on social media about anti-ageist attitudes and new books that challenge the conventional thinking that a person’s value to society diminishes as they age. Strength to Strength by Arthur Brooks and ROAR into the Second Half of Your Life by Michael Clinton present proof that people’s lives can become more useful as they age if society learns to value their input.

With trends in longevity leading to an increased lifespan of 100 years, Stanford Centre on Longevity’s New Life Map suggests a lifelong approach rather than the segmented life stages used in the past. Rather than confining learning to our early years, we can learn intensely in several stages throughout our lives.

Our career years should not be limited to the currently assumed “working age” of 16 – 64 years. It goes well beyond that. The working age should be not only expanded but less linear. The New Life Maps envision gaps between working – where a learning stage may occur but working continues throughout our lives.

In a world where older women are respected and treasured, the Wendy’s commercial would feature women arriving from their walking or cycling group asking for something healthy while they talk about their latest project to save the planet. When that happens, we will know real change has taken place.

Check out this blog New Image for Older Women for more conversation about this topic.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What are the casual comments that you hear about the downside of being older? What comments have you said yourself that put you down? What are you doing that challenges ageist attitudes?

Please take the Sixty and Me 2023 Community Survey

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Attitude is everything as we age. Enthusiasm for life is a great way to lead by example.

Maureen Atkinson

Yes. It is all about attitude!!

Lana Muir

This article was amazing! I enjoyed every single word of it. At age 72, I challenge ageist attitudes (especially about women) each and every single day. How do I do it? I got rid of my own bias first. Am I too old to look and feel good about myself? Should I still be wearing a bathing suit? Is flirting still okay? Yes, yes and yes! Most of my friends are around my age and I am shocked at how some “vintage women” view themselves. They seemed to have lost their sparkle along the way. The best way to keep that sparkle going is to revive those things and activities that you loved but may have given up on because of age. I just purchased a baton and fully intend on marching in our town’s next parade. I was a drum majorette through high school and college and still toss and twirl like a champion. My uniform might be a size larger now, but I don’t care!

Susan S

I want to see a photo of you in your sexy drum majorette uniform!

Maureen Atkinson

So much fun. We are the ones who must start changing these attitudes. Looks you are doing it in every way.


I went back to get a second degree at age 69, and have travelled heavily up to the Covid period, 2 years go. What I want to know is, what happens after age 75? Nobody seems to talk about it, except people younger than 75. I want to hear from women that are experiencing 75 plus. Is there a conversation on-going? I was just 77 and have lots of questions and observations. Please let me know. Thanks.

Maureen Atkinson

Jane Fonda and Jane Goodall are in their 80s. Betty White was working and funny well into her 90s. Look forward to comments from others on this


I had my 81st birthday in April, just retired from our small business in December 2022. We have traveled to over 40 countries, all over the USA in our RV already and plan to continue seeing our country in the future. Health wise it is more of a challenge but with eating a good diet, making exercise a priority, and keeping an active social life, life can remain a good experience. I just lost one of my aunts just two weeks from her 96th birthday. She was a great role model of a woman aging…mowed her 5 acres herself, pruned her fruit trees, made pottery in her own kiln, had a vegetable garden plus was still physically beautiful. She kept many friends in all age groups in her community. Bottom line no one, man or woman, should sit down in their favorite chair and mentally die before their time.

Maureen Atkinson

You are my hero!!

Linda Scott

I’m just a little old lady, but y’know, they don’t make little old ladies the way they used to.
It’s true. I now have to take a minute to “give it some thought,” however, that’s only because I recognize that things do not come as quickly to me as they used to. That having been said. I find this to be a most useful aspect of aging due to 5he simple truth that had I thought things through when I was younger. I could have avoided a few misadventures.

Maureen Atkinson

There is true value in thinking differently. It is not good or bad, it is just different.


I would have loved to read this article but scrolling ads on my phone keep covering whole chunks of text. No matter how fast or slow I scroll up or down, the ads still obliterate parts of every few paragraphs. I’ve never had this issue before with this website. I know it’s not the author’s fault but I don’t know who else to tell.

Susan S

Hi Margaret, if you do this it might help you block some of the pop up ads on your browser but not all. I have included help for iPhone or Android phones.

Turn Off PopUp Ads

On your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Go to Settings > Safari.
  2. Turn on Block Pop-ups.

On your Android phone or tablet:

  1. Open the Chrome app 
  2. To the right of the address bar, tap More 
  3. Settings
  4. Tap Permissions 
  5. Pop-ups and redirects
  6. Turn off (or on) Pop-ups and redirects.
Toni Stritzke

A very kind writer.


And most of those ads were for Depends!! A little incongruous don’t you think??

Vanya Drumchiyska

Hi Sharon,
The ads are automatic. We don’t choose them, and they are not article specific. They are individual specific.
Thank you for reading!

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The Author

Maureen Atkinson is Founder of Lifeshiift, an online community that supports women in their third act to live healthy vibrant lives. An active role model, she inspires members that age should not limit new experiences and adventures through her speaking, blogs, and videos. You can reach Maureen at maureen@lifeshiift.com

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