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Why Does Ageism Matter?

Why Does Ageism Matter?

Ageism, or discrimination against people on the basis of their age, is a pervasive problem that most of us internalize by the time we’re in pre-school. Our culture reinforces these biases, and by the time we’re older ourselves, we may not even recognize our attitudes as ageist.

When ageism is directed at older people, it reduces our well-being and even our lifespans. When we rely on negative stereotypes about older people, we miss out on the joy, creativity, intelligence, determination, and many other strengths that older people contribute to our workplaces and communities.

Ageism Reduces Our Well-Being and Lifespan

In a survey of people aged 60 and older, 80% said they had experienced some form of ageism, and almost a third reported being ignored or not taken seriously due to their age. On an individual level, ageism contributes to anxiety, depression, fear of getting treatment, and even shorter life spans. In healthcare, older patients are often viewed based on stereotypes that result in less effective care. For instance, problems like cognitive impairment caused by complex drug regimens aren’t as frequently recognized or treated in older adults. Our own attitudes about aging can even affect how long we live. According to one study, people who held negative views about aging lived, on average, 7.5 fewer years than their peers with more positive views.

Ageism Harms Our Workplaces and Communities

Ageism also has a wider impact on society as the negative assumptions about older people affect hiring decisions, community involvement, and governmental policies. In the workplace, over 60% of workers report they have seen or experienced ageism. Yet data show that intergenerational teams perform better than single generation ones, and that having older people on intergenerational teams tends to boost the productivity of those around them.

Over the decades to come, we will face challenges but also great opportunities as San Franciscans continue to live longer and more engaged lives. During the last century, the number of Americans aged 65 or older increased tenfold as life span almost doubled. By 2030, nearly 30% of San Franciscans will be age 60 or older. As we develop new strategies to address this longevity dividend, overcoming our own biases and assumptions about age will enable us to shape better policies and embrace innovative approaches that recognize older people as valuable resources in our communities.

Reframing the Conversation

Even with the best of intentions, it is challenging to change how we view aging. The Frameworks Institute, together with eight national aging-focused organizations and nine funders, completed extensive research on how to reshape the conversation so that we can create the changes we all need to benefit from increases in longevity. Reframing Aging San Francisco has drawn on the Frameworks Institute’s evidence-based recommendations to craft a local public campaign to raise awareness of ageism and foster broader community engagement with our older neighbors.

Join Us in Ending Ageism in San Francisco

San Francisco stands for innovation, inclusion and diversity. We can and must do more to enable people at all stages of life to find growth, connection and joy. Right now, our society is not treating older people as equals—in fact, we are marginalizing their participation and minimizing their contributions. To live up to San Francisco’s ideals, we must confront the injustice of ageism.

We are committed to ending ageism, and ensuring that all of us can live and thrive in San Francisco. Read more about what we’re doing, including the Reframing Aging San Francisco campaign, Age- and Disability-Friendly public policy and planning, funding innovative programs created by local organizations and neighbors, and creating intergenerational opportunities to reduce ageist stereotypes and biases.