Ageism: An Accepted form of Prejudice?
The reality of harm done by old-person jokes and media stereotypes
There are plenty of negative and harmful isms that need fixing. Among the lesser appreciated but widely acceptable forms of prejudice—and a harmful one at that—is ageism.
Sure, even I love a good “old man” joke. I’m 60, and I make them all the time, both in self-deprecating form and at the expense of good friends of a certain age. But should I?
Lisa Borrero, PhD, an associate professor of health and aging studies at the University of Indianapolis, doesn’t think so.
“The hashtag, #OKBoomer, became a cultural sensation as a humorous quip to sling at clueless older people,” Borrero writes in Psychology Today. “Criticism of the phrase, given its pervasive use to demean older adults, is largely dismissed as oversensitivity. Accordingly, ageism has been described as the last acceptable form of prejudice.”
I’m going to somewhat grudgingly agree with her on the potential harm in the OKBoomer hashtag—though given the broad economic advantages conferred to the generation over time, I think it deserves to have its balloon deflated a bit. But will I stop with the age-old old-age jokes myself? Probably not. Then again, as a very active “senior” (a word I’ve come to despise) I don’t feel as affected by cultural ageism as many people no doubt are.
Let’s look at the reality.