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Why is Ageism Still Allowed and How Can We Fix It?

By Sixty and Me April 30, 2018 Mindset

Within the past 100 years, most of the free world has taken a stand to fight racism, sexism, anti-semitism, and heterosexism, so why is ageism still such a problem? Join us in conversation with Dr. Bill Thomas who has some eye-opening solutions to share. Enjoy the show!


As someone who works diligently with geriatrics to change the stereotypes often associated with ageing, Dr. Bill Thomas believes that our “culture narrative creates a self-fulfilling prophecy”. When society insists that older adults are in a constant state of decline, older adults begin to look for areas of decline in their lives which, when found, only reinforces the aging stereotype.

Dr. Bill argues that adults should be more focused on the aspects of growth during this stage of life and less on the element of decline. Until we do, there is little chance that we will break free from the trap of an ageist society.

Priming Can Be Positive

Priming, as Dr. Bill explains is a psychological concept involving the process of sending messages about various aspects of our lives. When we receive these messages about aging, we tend to then interpret our own experiences in light of that information. For example, if we are told that older people are often very sickly and we come down with a cold, we might interpret our cold as the beginning of a state of constant poor health.

The good news about priming is that it can go both ways. By sending positive messages about ageing, we can help each other interpret our experiences to mean our lives are only improving with time.

Breaking Free of Ageism

Positive priming will reverse the effects of ageism but how do we get society onboard? How do we break free of negative, ageist stereotypes? Dr. Bill says that the most powerful tool for breaking free of ageism lies in almost every woman’s bedroom and/or bathroom. The mirror. A simple daily exercise of looking in the mirror and accepting, embracing, and treasuring your reflection will combat any lies about ageing that you’ve been told.

Telling yourself that you look beautiful, that you look happy, or that you look exactly as you should look during this time in your life will chase ageist thoughts from your mind. And once they’ve left your mind you can begin positively priming those around you.

See Me, Hear Me

One of the biggest lies we are told is that older adults are supposed to be quiet, unassuming, inconspicuous adults that stay out of the way. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The best strategy for fighting these notions is simply to stand up, be noticed, and let your voice be heard. Older adults have greater knowledge, wisdom, and experience that will benefit generations to come if only we will speak up. It is not our time to sit on the sidelines. We are still active participants in life and we must stand up and be heard.

As a geriatrician, Dr. Bill understands ageing from both a medical and a social perspective. He says that the most important thing that he has learned about ageing is that it means something different to everyone and we most respect each other’s varying perspectives. But that doesn’t mean we must indulge stereotyped narratives that equate ageing with decline.

Understanding Why We Age

Biologically speaking, humans are mammals and all mammals age because it is in our DNA. It’s just how we are made, and we are good at it because ageing is valuable. We bring a great deal to the table and others around us benefit from our years of experience.

To put it simply, Dr. Bill says, “When you wake up in the morning one day older, you’re fulfilling a destiny. You are travelling a path of utmost secret dimensions… It is time to live like you’ve never lived before.”

Do you feel like an active participant in life or more like a spectator? What do you want to say to the reflection in your mirror? What experiences have you had that you should share with younger generations? Please join the conversation!

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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