Ageism, a new form of discrimination?

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In a society where racism, sexism and homophobia are the subject of constant debate, there is a prejudice that is much less talked about: age discrimination. The reason ? Its anchoring is so deep that it is now standardized.

Age discrimination is widespread in everyday life. But what is age discrimination, a term so little used that only the dictionary or the World Health Organization can tell us?

This expression designates all discrimination related to age. Although it represents the third type of discrimination after racism and sexism, it is one of the least recognized prejudices.

"Age discrimination is not, however, a new discrimination", said the sociologist Nicolás Menet, I would say that it arose when the principle of retirement was created.

Without being opposed, the sociologist believes that the invention of pension plans has institutionalized the course of life in two: work and retirement. A vision shared by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), as it recommends gradually eliminating the legal retirement age, considering that this contributed to this discrimination.

Canadians will not say otherwise. "The way the French withdraw is like abuse," said Gérard Ribes, professor of psychology. Canada is one of the countries that has abolished the legal retirement age.

"No one can force you to stop there, the professor continues. And what marks our human dignity is the possibility of choice. However, in many countries the older you get, the less you choose."

What is an ageist expression?

"At your age", "You are not your age", "The poor thing is 90 years old, she must not go out, she can fall". Age comments can take the form of compliments that emphasize the persons age, or of protective and miserable age discrimination, because you protect the person so much that you deprive them of their freedoms. In both cases, this is discrimination.

Social pressure and many prejudices

Age discrimination is all the more cruel as, in addition to ridicule, marginalization or exclusion, it can also be benevolent. Some advertisements about promote old age, showing active and athletic seniors devoting their energy and time to grandchildren. "It is a form of age discrimination, because portraying them in that way generates social pressure," explains Nicolás Menet.

At work, the perfect example is still the person in his fifties "in the closet, to whom we will no longer entrust strategic files, and who will be excluded from the operation of the company due to prejudice."

But how to explain this behavior? According to the sociologist, one of the reasons is anthropological: an "old" person has a link with advancing age and, therefore, with death. "This is a subject we never talk about, he regrets. We even try to hide death, even defeat it."

For Nicolás Menet, "in a society that considers it increasingly modern, increasingly connected, a senior represents someone overwhelmed, who no longer understands the world we live in. That is wrong"

This society that favors youth, Jean-Pierre Aquino, general delegate of the SFGG, laments it: "The only thing that matters is how young, how beautiful and how fast it runs. But, in the end, we are all someones old ".

If this damage is evident in advertising and professional circles, it is also noticeable in the health world. Especially in emergencies in which "the older you are, the more you expect", denounces Jérôme Pellissier, vice president of the Ageism Observatory. "This is an implicit consideration on the part of some who associate age, death and illness," explains Jean-Pierre Aquino.

Create a link between generations to curb age discrimination

Age discrimination even threatens the health of older people, according to a study by epidemiologist Becca Levy. "It affects self-representation, explains Gérard Ribes." In what way am I still useful? Am I still an interesting person? These collapses in self-image cause a state of depression. "

According to Jérôme Pellissier, this must pass through coexistence: "To break these prejudices, generations must meet". An argument shared by Jean-Pierre Aquino. In addition to better representation of retirees in decision-making bodies, the latter encourages the multiplication of work-oriented experiences between generations. Gérard Ribes is sure: "In a society that tends to fragment, creating a bond is the most important thing".

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