Top 10 ways for young and old to practice ageism


By Marianne Delorey©

Our entire society — everything from schools to nursing homes, is structured around age. It is hard to argue that ageism isn’t the last “ism” we will need to overcome. So, to honor a society that values these stereotypes, here is a list of the top 10 ways to promote oversimplifying about someone’s age.

10. Use words that define people based on negative generalizations. For the old, I recommend fogy, geezer and old maid. For the young, try whippersnapper, delinquent or green around the ears.

M.Delorey_headshot9. Discredit the experiences of the group you are looking to isolate. Make sure the young know that you had it so much worse. If you are young, tell your grandparent they are old school and they need to get with the times.

8. Involve technology. Point out that kids can’t go anywhere without their cell phones. Also point out that older people still use a rotary dial landline phone.

7. Make a point to discredit their education to paint them as incompetent. If he is old, tell him that his degree is worthless now because everything has changed. If she is young, make a point to note that it is all book knowledge and she can’t apply any of it yet.

6. Put down their physical attributes. If you are talking to an old person, make sure you hold their arm and treat them like they need help. Point out all the health problems they have. If you are talking to a young person, say things like, “Oh, isn’t she cute. She thinks working out will keep her perfect body forever.”

5. Make sure you tie their mental limitations to the number of years they’ve been on this planet. Prompt your grandmother for an answer if she takes her time to respond to your question. Or call your grandson “hung over” or “hormonal” if he is having a bad day.

4. Treat them with pity and assume they are jealous of you. About the young, say, “Oh, the poor thing had to choose between family and a career. It was so much easier back in the day.” And about the old say, “It must be so hard to lose everything piece by piece. I bet they’d turn back time if they could.”

3. Point out the other group’s dependence on society while demanding preferential treatment for yourself, “I can’t believe he has been on unemployment for so long. I paid into the Social Security system, so I’m not living off him.” Or, “The old suck the health care system dry. There is no room left for my maternity leave.”

2. Assume you know how they feel. About the old, say “I bet she’s miserable all the time because she’s about to die.” Or, if she is young, say “I bet she’s at that awkward stage and can’t find a boyfriend.”

And the number one way to promote ageism is to think that it is a one way street. People of all ages experience prejudice. Remember, however, that everyone is an individual. Grouping people together is one way to distance yourself from them, but think how much better our society would be if we could all look beyond the skin, wrinkly or smooth, and visit the person within before you decide about them.

Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the executive director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or and Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at