Ageism is one of the biggest challenges we confront as women becoming older. Ageism refers to discrimination and prejudice based on age. The older we become, the greater the prejudice seems to be. It seems like there is a “magic age”, usually in our 50s or 60s when we start being perceived by others and ourselves as “old”. It seems that the younger the person encountering us, the younger the age that we start being perceived as old.
Ageism affects people of all genders, but the impact is frequently more severe when applied to us as women. For example, women are powerfully affected by lookism—the loss of youthful attractiveness, and this has an impact on both self-esteem and how others respond to us. Most women hold themselves to higher standards of beauty than most men. Men seem more able to take physical aging in stride, probably because the consequences to their self-image and how they are treated in society is less pronounced than for women.
As we age, our culture devalues our sexuality, our minds, and our bodies, and we also struggle with internalized ageism. From an early age, we are indoctrinated to believe many of the negative stereotypes of what it means to be old. To counter ageism, we must fight our own internalized stereotypes, and distance ourselves emotionally from society’s negative beliefs about us. Ultimately, we need to re-envision what it means to be a woman growing older, value our amazing strength and wisdom, and free ourselves to offer what we can to ourselves and the world.
Questions to Consider:
1) What ageist reactions have you experienced from younger people?
2) What are some stereotypes you have internalized about being older?
3) Share ways in which you have been able to overcome internalized ageist beliefs and value yourself and other older women.
4) Do you think ageism is changing for the better in society or becoming worse?
5) What are some of the benefits and gifts of your experience of getting older?
All rights reserved © 2020 Beth Firestein, Ph.D. Wise Women Group