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COAAD

Third Age is a voluntary, community organization in Ireland representing and promoting the interests of older Irish citizens. This is how they define ageism:

"Ageism is a prejudice against people because they are "old". Like other ‘isms’, such as racism, it lumps a large group of people together and reduces them to a negative common denominator. Ageism is extremely pervasive and permeates many aspects of society including government, the general public, and older people themselves."

Not unlike the practitioners of other 'isms', such as racism, the practitioners of ageism use pejorative words and expressions to put down, insult, denigrate, marginalize and otherwise abuse the victims of their prejudice. 

Dr. Bob McCann, a Professor at USC Marshall School of Business, published an article titled, When Words Get Old: Ageist Language Undercuts Workers, Companies in which he wrote:

"Age-related comments such as "the old woman," "that old goat," "too long on the job," "old and tired," "a sleepy kind of guy with no pizzazz," "he had bags under his eyes," and he is "an old fart" are just some of the hundreds of ageist comments McCann and Giles unearthed in their analysis of age-discrimination lawsuits."

The ignorant workplace bullies who make the type of ageist comments mentioned in the previous paragraph are a major liability to their company and should probably be fired. They are creating a hostile work environment that more likely than not results in lowered productivity and a loss of profits resulting from age discrimination lawsuit settlements and judgments.

Ageist language helps support and promote an environment where people believe that people over 40 can be demeaned, ridiculed and marginalized. This language conveys the attitude that older adults should be treated differently. Differently in the sense that older adults should be treated as less valued, less capable and otherwise generally lesser members of society than younger adults.

Dr. Robert Butler, the psychiatrist and gerontologist who led the International Longevity Center for 20 years, won the Pulitzer Prize and coined the word "ageism in 1968, observed:

"Ageism allows younger generations to see older people as different than themselves; thus they subtly cease to identify with their elders as human beings."

In line with Dr. Butler's statement is the fact that derogatory, ageist language supports and creates prejudices, negative stereotypes and prejudgments about older adults. People should be careful about using terms that attribute disagreeable habits and personality traits, physical and/or mental weakness to people over 40. We cannot reduce of eradicate ageism unless we put a lid on the language that promotes ageism.

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Copyright © 2012 WM. Baker Associates. All rights reserved. Except as permitted by applicable provisions of the United States Copyright Act, no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher.