Notes on Age, Ageing, and Ageism

By Dr. Kimya Jackson
Class of 2000

The age, 65, is an arbitrary age derived by German actuaries for insurance purposes. In first encounters, age is one of the earliest markers It is not true that older adults are, by definition, bad drivers. Some are safer as drivers than many younger adults. Typically, they drive more slowly than younger drivers and have a slower
reaction time.

It is not true that most older adults live in nursing homes. Only between five and twenty-five percent of older adults live in nursing homes and they are there primarily because of physical problems (i.e. immobility) or cognitive problems (i.e., dementia). Many older adults live independently.

It is not true that all older adults will develop arthritis, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. People age differently, and health is influenced not exclusively by age, but also by culture, socioeconomic status, family, exercise, nutrition, personal attributes, and genes.

Physical health begins to decline when we reach the age of twenty-five!

Older adults still have sexual intercourse. They also contract sexually transmitted infections.

Older adults have sexual intercourse. They also contract sexually transmitted infections.

It is not true that older adults are primarily sad because they have experienced so many losses. Some research studies have found that older adults are happier than young adults.

It is not true that death is an obsession for older people because they are “close to the grave.” If older people believe they are physically healthy, they do not think about death any more than their young counterparts.

It is not true that most older adults do not live beyond their nineties. Medical advances and public health improvements have enabled people to live well into their hundreds. The oldest living woman on record was a French woman who lived to be 122 years.

Age prejudice is one of the most socially condoned, institutionalized forms of prejudice in the world—especially in the United States.

One of the unique features of ageism is that age, unlike race and sex, represents a category in which most people from the in-group (the younger) will eventually (if they are fortunate) become a member.

Older adults are stereotyped as incompetent, but also warm; physically and cognitively inept, but socially sensitive . . .  They are subjected to a paternalistic breed of prejudice. They are pitied, but not respected.