"You're expired, let's be honest! Who chooses you at this age? How do you dress like that at your age? You didn't have a family until that age?” The other day I read these comments on a well-known person's social media page. She is in her mid-40s, a fitness model and a journalist. In my view, these comments betray a lot of anger and a lot of different issues, not just that the age-shaming phenomenon is in full swing. Today I'm going to write about age shaming because I think it's very important. Before I begin, I would like to ask a few questions. The human body, which for years has sometimes been perceived as a marketing currency or an instrument of pleasure by a clearly patriarchal society, does it become irrelevant the moment it is no longer attractive? Why, despite its attractiveness, is the same body sometimes glorified and sometimes slandered? Envy, frustration, ingroup bias, stereotyping, defensiveness, inherited patterns, age shaming?
Age shaming is a type of discrimination that is often overlooked. It refers to negative stereotyping or devaluing of people because of their age. It can be comments, jokes, pictures or remarks that refer to age. Although it may often seem harmless, it can have a serious impact on those affected.
Where does age shaming come from?
Age shaming is often a result of our culture that idealises youthfulness and beauty. People are oftentimes judged by their age and it is assumed that they lose value as they age. But these assumptions are false and harmful. The diversity of age should be valued and ageing should be seen as a normal and valuable part of life.
How does age shaming affect those affected?
Studies show that people affected by age shaming are at higher risk of depression, anxiety and even physical illness. It can also lead to a loss of self-esteem and dignity and affect quality of life.
Some specific examples of scientific studies examining the effects of age shaming: Levy, B.R., & Myers, L.M. (2004). This study found that age stereotypes can affect health status. Researchers recommend combating aging shame and promoting a positive attitude towards aging to improve overall well-being and health. North, M.S., Fiske, S.T., & Dehumanizing, H. (2012). This study found that age shaming can lead to dehumanization in older adults, and that this dehumanization can have negative effects on cognitive performance and mental health. Researchers suggest that promoting a positive attitude towards aging may help reduce these negative effects. Chasteen, A.L., Bhattacharyya, S., Horhota, M., Tam, R., & Hasher, L. (2005). This study found that older adults who were aware of negative age-related biases before taking a memory test performed worse on the test than those who were unaware. Combating negative age stereotypes and promoting positive attitudes toward aging may even help improve cognitive functioning in older adults.
Age shaming towards younger people
Age shaming can not only affect older people, it can also affect younger people. For example, young adults may be prejudiced that they are too inexperienced or unreliable to take on certain tasks. It can also lead to younger people not being taken seriously because of their age or being labelled as "children".
This can lead to a lack of self-confidence and respect and have a negative impact on their career opportunities. It is important to also address and avoid ageism towards younger people in order to create an inclusive and respectful work environment.
What can we do about age shaming?
It is important to tackle age shaming by being aware of how we treat our fellow human beings. We should stand up for age without discrimination and be ready to speak out against age shaming and urge others to do the same.
Age shaming in the workplace
Ageism in the workplace is a significant issue that affects not only older workers, but also companies and society as a whole. There are different forms of age discrimination that can show up in the world of work.
Prejudice based on age
One of the most common prejudices and types of age discrimination is the assumption that older workers are less productive and flexible than younger workers. Another prejudice is that older people are incapable of technology or do not want to continue their education. These assumptions can lead to older workers being discriminated against in hiring, promotion or in the allocation of training and development opportunities.
Another form of age discrimination in the workplace is the dismissal of older workers because of their age. This form of discrimination can have serious consequences for those affected, especially if they have difficulty finding a new job.
How can age discrimination in the workplace be avoided?
To avoid age discrimination in the workplace, it is important to raise people's awareness of the issue. One way to do this is to conduct training and workshops for employers and employees. This can reduce prejudice and raise awareness of the importance of diversity. Promoting mixed-age teams and creating flexible working models can also help older workers stay in the workforce longer.
The human body has been the battlefield of differing views and the beauty and cosmetics industry for many centuries. How about we stop for a few seconds? What if we looked at our body as a house? By the way, the only real house. One we cannot exchange, but we can take care of it, love it and appreciate it for what it is.
In a world obsessed with youthfulness, it is easy to fall into the trap of discriminating against people because of their age. But by realising how damaging this behaviour can be, we can create a better world for us all. Let us recognise age as a valuable resource and fight against age shaming.