Together We Can Combat the Devastating Effects of Ageism and Ableism

Leadership  |  July 1, 2022

Combatting Ageism and Ableism

by Dr. Amy Dore, CLC Board Chair, Metropolitan State University Professor
Maddy Chapman, Director of Community Life, Someren Glen

Did you know that ageism is learned and developed during early childhood and continued throughout adulthood? Did you know 61 million adults in the United States live with a disability? Ageism and ableism plague every aspect of our society, affecting how we view others and ourselves and triggering job loss, memory issues, health complications, decreased lifespan, and even impacts our national Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Did you know that you can play a part in combating Ageism and Ableism?

We are all aging! Aging is a universal experience. Whether intended or not, older adults are often viewed as a homogenous group. Yet, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The older we are, the less alike we become. Aging is shaped by the physical, mental, societal, cultural, and environmental contexts in which we live. This is apparent every day as older adults are the largest consumer group in America with significant political and economic clout. By 2034, older adults are projected to outnumber children in the United States for the first time in history. In addition, ageism, or prejudice against one because of their age, costs the United States $63 billion dollars annually in health care expenses and $850 million in workplace age discrimination. Understanding the experience of aging will help us understand society.

What is Ableism

In its simplest form, ableism is defined as discrimination against disabled people. Disabilities can include mobility, cognition, hearing, vision, independent living, and self-care. In Colorado, 1 in 5 adults has a disability, with healthcare costs reaching $12 billion per year of the state’s healthcare spending. Ableism is seen every day in how society treats those with disabilities and is largely built up from stereotypes, stigmas, and society’s view of “ideal abilities.” Disabilities are not always seen, yet ableism is highly prominent in the viewpoint society holds that simply put, it is better to be non-disabled than disabled.

Ableist actions can take many forms, including segregation, refusing reasonable accommodations, framing a disabled person as ‘inspirational’, or assuming a person is faking their disability. As with ageism, ableism has far-reaching consequences. Research shows ableist actions tend to be more negative towards older adults than younger age groups. In addition, correlations can be seen between higher levels of ableism and depression, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and heart disease

Ending Ageism and Ableism

Ending ageism and ableism is up to us! As a committed group, we can be change agents, advocating for systemic, environmental, and policy changes. By making some simple changes to how we speak to others and view others, together we can make monumental changes to the world! Read more on Ageism

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