Ways to Combat Ageism & Change Ageist Behaviour
As we have seen societies change before our eyes, it is clear that individual actions truly make a difference. Ageism is a prejudice that sneaks under our radars all too often. From family to health care professionals, and even tech moguls such as Mark Zuckerberg, ageism is the most socially-acceptable discrimination in Canada.
In a 2012 survey, it was reported that 21% of Canadians said “older Canadians are a burden on society,” and more than one-third admit to engaging in ageist behaviour. With the contributions, wisdom, heritage, legacy, and love our elders provide to our communities, no blatant or implied bigotry should ever be tolerated. Each of us must take the responsibility to stand up for equality and humanity for every member of our society. As an employer, family member, or service provider, you can make a difference.
Company culture reflects the society of our cities. Organizations naturally tend to shape the way we communicate and treat each other. As an employer, manager, or human resource worker, you have an obligation to lead your workplace culture into an inclusive environment where every member can feel safe to engage.
Did you know 8 out of 10 Canadians believe ageism limits their opportunities in the workforce? The feeling of unequal opportunities in the labour market due to lack of education or network is a recurring issue throughout Canada. Still, those with the most experience feel it as well.
As an employer, to ensure you do not contribute to the statistic, participate in the Government of Canada’s Age Friendly-Workplace: A Self-Assessment Tool for Employers. By assessing where your workplace can improve inclusivity, you become one step closer to becoming the solution to ageism instead of feeding the problem.
- Have you ever caught yourself making an executive decision for a senior in your family without asking their opinion?
- Have you ever assumed a senior member in your family cannot perform a task due to their age?
- Have you ever seen a family member assume a senior cannot contribute due to their age?
Whether you are subconsciously participating in ageism or a bystander, you are not guilt-free. Family is created by your elders and raising their kin. Their contributions have built your values and what you have. There is no one worthier of your respect than your senior family members. Consider this next time you tell your elder what to do or dismiss their opinions. These actions define our relationships and create leaders in a just society.
Customer service is the backbone of client satisfaction and retention. Whether you’re a labour contractor, a nurse, or a financial advisor, your clients will include seniors. In fact, as Boomers age, your senior client base will increase significantly over the next decade. Before your job depends on it, it is wise to educate yourself on ageism and how you or your colleagues may be contributing.
If you consider yourself aware, review Vanier Institutes’ 2015 study which showed that 78% of surveyed seniors feel “health care professionals have dismissed [their] complaints as an inevitable part of aging.” To this day, one in four Canadian seniors has experienced ageism from government policies designed with the assumption that programs, infrastructure, and services are for young adults.
The moral is to treat your fellow community members the way we want to be treated. Ageism is a mainstream form of prejudice that we are too comfortable with. When we age, our vibrancy lives on if we continue to live life to the fullest. Having the support from our communities to contribute, make our own decisions, be independent, and have equal opportunities allows us to live longer and healthier.
Take Reel Youth and our certified member Revera’s film project Age is More, where they celebrate the incredible stories seniors in Mississauga have to tell. Stand up for elders in your community and watch their wisdom breakthrough the ageism in Canada.