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Let's end ageism

Ashton Applewhite | 2017

It turns out that the longer people live, the less they fear dying, and that people are happiest at the beginnings and the end of their lives. It's called the U-curve of happiness, and it's been borne out by dozens of studies around the world. You don't have to be a Buddhist or a billionaire. The curve is a function of the way aging itself affects the brain. So I started feeling a lot better about getting older, and I started obsessing about why so few people know these things. The reason is ageism: discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of age. We experience it anytime someone assumes we're too old for something, instead of finding out who we are and what we're capable of, or too young. Ageism cuts both ways.

The strange thing about ageism: that other is us.

Ageism feeds on denial — our reluctance to acknowledge that we are going to become that older person. It's denial when we try to pass for younger or when we believe in anti-aging products, or when we feel like our bodies are betraying us, simply because they are changing.

Why should aging well mean struggling to look and move like younger versions of ourselves?
the experience of reaching old age can be better or worse depending on the culture in which it takes place.
It is not having a vagina that makes life harder for women. It's sexism. It's not loving a man that makes life harder for gay guys. It's homophobia. And it is not the passage of time that makes getting older so much harder than it has to be. It is ageism.

You can't make money off satisfaction, but shame and fear create markets, and capitalism always needs new markets. Who says wrinkles are ugly? The multi-billion-dollar skin care industry. Who says perimenopause and low T and mild cognitive impairment are medical conditions? The trillion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. The more clearly we see these forces at work, the easier it is to come up with alternative, more positive and more accurate narratives.Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured. It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all. Changing the culture is a tall order, I know that, but culture is fluid.

Look at how much the position of women has changed in my lifetime or the incredible strides that the gay rights movement has made in just a few decades, right? Look at gender. We used to think of it as a binary, male or female, and now we understand it's a spectrum. It is high time to ditch the old-young binary, too. There is no line in the sand between old and young, after which it's all downhill.

In Silicon Valley, engineers are getting Botoxed and hair-plugged before key interviews — and these are skilled white men in their 30s, so imagine the effects further down the food chain. The personal and economic consequences are devastating.
We know that diverse companies aren't just better places to work; they work better. And just like race and sex, age is a criterion for diversity. A growing body of fascinating research shows that attitudes towards aging affect how our minds and bodies function at the cellular level. When we talk to older people like this (Speaks more loudly) or call them "sweetie" or "young lady" — it's called elderspeak — they appear to instantly age, walking and talking less competently. People with more positive feelings towards aging walk faster, they do better on memory tests, they heal quicker, and they live longer.
There's a double standard at work here — shocker — the notion that aging enhances men and devalues women.Women reinforce this double standard when we compete to stay young, another punishing and losing proposition.
By 2050, one out of five of us, almost two billion people, will be age 60 and up. Longevity is a fundamental hallmark of human progress. All these older people represent a vast unprecedented and untapped market. And yet, capitalism and urbanization have propelled age bias into every corner of the globe, from Switzerland, where elders fare the best, to Afghanistan, which sits at the bottom of the Global AgeWatch Index.

Half of the world's countries aren't mentioned on that list because we don't bother to collect data on millions of people because they're no longer young. Almost two-thirds of people over 60 around the world say they have trouble accessing healthcare. Almost three-quarters say their income doesn't cover basic services like food, water, electricity, and decent housing.

Is this the world we want our children, who may well live to be a hundred, to inherit? Everyone — all ages, all genders, all nationalities — is old or future-old, and unless we put an end to it, ageism will oppress us all. And that makes it a perfect target for collective advocacy.