Our friend Dr Bill Thomas is often quoted saying ageism is the last ism.
Like Bill, we’re committed to tackling everyday ageism and it’s an issue we plan to raise at the party conferences in the autumn.
But someone challenged this view the other day. They said surely it’s not the ‘last ism’ – racism, sexism and homophobia still exists. We don’t disagree unfortunately, and hope these too will be eradicated.
Yet how many times have you seen an older person ridiculed for their age? They’re used as caricatures in TV ads or comedy sketches, inevitably portrayed as either senile or grumpy; alternatively they’re painted as vulnerable and feeble victims by the media.
Or how many times is an older person either ignored or overlooked because of their age? Just watch this video from a London artist explaining how people pretend his 77-year old grandad is invisible when they’re out together. This is just one example of many.
It’s not socially acceptable to ignore, ridicule or stereotype someone based on their gender, race or sexual orientation. So why is it socially acceptable to do this to older people because of their age?
Perhaps ageism is not the last ISM in society but it certainly seems to be culturally acceptable, and this needs to stop. As a start, politicians, journalists, and commentators must stop talking about the burden of ageing, the silver tsunami or, as Jeremy Hunt put it, the quiet crisis of ageing. These phrases reinforce the view that ageing is a negative experience, instead of an opportunity.
It’s time to reframe the conversation about later life and #EndAgeism.