By Sheldon P. Wagman - 06/07/2022


Hayes & Roadin – 2003 developed four factors as a measure to understand the aging process.  They are:

  • Chronological Age – The number of years that have elapsed since birth. Time may be considered as a simple number of many events and experiences.
  • Biological Age – A person’s age in terms of biological health. The younger a person’s biological health, the longer a person is expected to live regardless of chronological age.
  • Psychological Age – An individual’s adaptive capacities compared with those of other individuals of the same chronological Age. Thus, older adults who continue to learn are more flexible, motivated, in control of their emotions and are able to think clearly.  They are able to utilize more adaptive behaviors than their chronological age.
  • Social Age – The social roles and expectations related to a person’s age.  Older adults who continue with their social interactions and activities age longer than their chronological age.

The following information is provided by The World Health Organization (WHO) concerning ageism. 

The term “ageism” was coined by Robert Neil Butler in 1969. The definition of ageism refers to the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others based on age.

There are three levels of ageism:

  • Micro level – Individual
  • Meso level – Social networks
  • Macro level ­– Institutional and cultural

Data from the 2020 National Poll on Healthy Aging found that 82% of older Americans reported experiencing ageism regularly, 65% experienced ageist messages from the media, 45% experienced interpersonal intentional ageism and 46% had internalized ageism.

Workplace Examples of Ageism

  • Using a person’s age to decide whether to hire or not
  • Asking a person’s age not related to the type of work
  • Company policies that negatively reflect a person’s age
  • Rejecting a person by age because they are seen as out of touch, less skilled or fixed in their ways
  • Taking advantage of a person by bullying, critizing or harassing because of their age

Personal Examples of Ageism

  • Elder abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual or financial
  • Making jokes demeaning a person’s abilities or appearance
  • Taking away a person’s independence because of their age
  • Withholding medical and mental treatment due to the person’s age
  • Forcing a person to undergo unnecessary procedures

Ageism has far reaching consequences and effects all age groups worldwide.  As a person ages, their physical and mental health declines requiring greater care.  With the need for greater care the cost of this care increases.  WHO reported that the United States spends billions of dollars each year to treat the elderly’s medical and mental health condition.

Ageism is associated with an earlier death; estimated to be 7.5 years on average.  They are seen as less capable and worthy of care.

How to Combat Ageism

Education – Provide a better understanding of the process and how to manage this process.

Intergenerational Intervention – Develop and encourage more cooperation, compassion and empathy between the age groups.

  • Change the law and practices to reduce inequality and discrimination.
  • On an individual level, become knowledgeable about the aging process
  • Enable a person to become more aware of their feelings, manner of thinking and decision making
  • Be able to call on life experiences to engage the aging person
  • Help the aging person develop allies so they can be heard, recognized, respected and appreciated for their views, knowledge and life experiences

What Are the Positive Views of Aging?

  • 88% feel more comfortable being themselves
  • 80% have a strong sense of purpose
  • 67% feel more positive about aging
  • 65% think their life is better than they thought it would be
  • (taken from Institute for Healthcare Policy and Intervention, University of Michigan)

The aging process involves many factors including heredity/genetics, cultural, nutritional, level of exercise, level of education, early child development process, plus many more.  It is a complex process which requires a good deal of patience, diligence, foresight, planning and fortitude.

I would like to conclude with a brief vignette.  My mother-in-law, who was a mother to me was diagnosed with lymphoma at age 88.  She received treatment for it successfully! She was a sage with a willingness to share her wisdom and life experiences.  I am sure that if I asked her about ageism she would respond with a twinkle in her eyes and a smile on her face.  “Those people should be forgiven for they known not what they are thinking or saying.”  She lived another 15 years and passed peacefully at 103 years old.  Her beacon of light continues to shine brightly to this day.

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