I often get a chuckle out of Mr. Mackay’s cartoons, but not today and certainly not on the topic of older people. That a newly elected inexperienced politician has been appointed as Minister of State for Seniors is a major issue for another day.
My point today is that such a negative, stereotypical depiction and assumptions about older people is not funny, but rather a classic example of ageism. Ageism is a term first coined by the brilliant Robert N. Butler, in 1968, who correctly defined it as another form of bigotry. He died last year but wrote extensively on ageing to educate us that this is a stage of life we need to learn about, and celebrate not to disrespectfully malign.
Older people want to be accepted for what they are, as thriving, energetic, skilled, interesting, experienced people who still want to participate in society in whatever capacity they so choose..be it in paid or unpaid work or policy decision-makers; to contribute socially, politically, culturally, whatever, wherever, should they choose to do so.
The task ahead is to raise awareness and educate the public and insist that all policies regarding older people must include input from those affected; in other words, ‘nothing about us, without us’. Growing older is a normal stage of life as described in Dr. Butler’s studies. The question is, are our elected leaders, and our media outlets wise enough to accept this and do they have the vision to plan and prepare for our society’s future?
Advisor on Ageing, International Council of Women
Burlington, On L7N 2G8