LeadingAge Texas

03/16/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/16/2023 12:00

“I Don’t Have Time to Care about Ageism!”

March 16, 2023

"I Don't Have Time to Care about Ageism!"

Home» "I Don't Have Time to Care about Ageism!"

BY Kirsten Jacobs


We are living through a particularly challenging time in our field. In the last two weeks, I've heard so many difficult stories, including organizations laying off amazing people due to financial strains, nursing home teams enduring unusually difficult survey processes, and of course, the ongoing impact of workforce shortages. That's just naming a few.

So, when someone like me suggests that we need to acknowledge and disrupt ageism amidst it all, it's no surprise that we're often not met with resounding enthusiasm. How on earth can aging services professionals stop to think about prejudice and discrimination based on a person's age, while struggling with so many urgent problems?

I think those of us who are advocating against ageism-and the many other intersecting isms-have failed to make the case. I truly believe that disrupting ageism will help to address those many urgent problems with which we are currently grappling.

Why is it so difficult to obtain appropriate funding for our field? Why doesn't the survey process truly prioritize person-directedness? Why is it hard to hire and retain enough team members to do the important work? Why are we constantly working against negative perceptions of our field?

Beneath the many layers of political disfunction, bureaucracy, finger pointing, and limited resources is a deeply held belief that older people, and those who care for them, are less worthy. Less worthy of our time, our resources, and our attention. That belief is in the air we breathe.

This winter, children across the United States dressed up like caricatures of 100-year-old people to mark the 100th day of school. While they playfully donned grey wigs and painted on wrinkles, they were unknowingly embracing the idea that older people are a joke. Those very children will become policy makers, regulators, and possible aging services team members. It's not just political correctness, or one more ism to add to the already huge list of discrimination-ageism IS the problem.

So, perhaps we need to shift our thinking. Abolishing ageism isn't one more thing to add to our work, it's a fundamental part of everything we do every day.

Advocates like me aren't asking you to bring your sign to the next rally or march (though we'd love to see you there!), but instead we're inviting you to see age-inclusion as part of the work you do, not separate work to do. Start asking questions like:

  • How does our marketing embrace the full spectrum of age (and ability), so ALL people know they are welcome within our organization? All people include older workers who might just help address our workforce shortage.
  • How do our DEI efforts center age as part of the intersectional conversation? That conversation might ensure team members of all ages-including younger workers who often encounter discrimination based on their age-feel a sense of belonging that makes them want to stay at our organization.
  • How does our local and national advocacy raise consciousness about the full aging experience rather than reinforcing a narrative of only decline and loss? We are all aging. If we start seeing old age as a vibrant and complex part of life, then perhaps we'll all stop turning our heads away and start thinking about how to include older adults in conversations about resources and funding.

If talking about ageism makes you squirm, or just feels like you don't have time, then let's shift the conversation to age-inclusion. We all want to feel included, now and for many years to come. Let's work together to make that a reality.