By John Rice
Ageism: The federal government coined the term in 1969, which refers to discriminating against people because of their age. Two years later, the feds outlawed employers' practice of rejecting job applicants who were over age 40. Despite the law, age discrimination is more common than ever.
Ageism is rampant in the workplace, where older workers can't get hired or are quickly pushed out the door. Companies can discount the abilities of young adults too, paying them low salaries or holding them in positions for which they're overqualified but "haven't put in the time" to get promoted.
In the entertainment industry, ageism is more prevalent than ever. It's a real nightmare for female actors, who generally pass from starlet to has-been in a few short years. Actress Liv Tyler complained that she is relegated to mom roles, now that she's 38.
Some of these actresses contributed to the 15 billion dollars Americans spent on plastic surgery last year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Besides botox, many dye their hair. They cling desperately to youth.
But the irony is that older people don't necessarily feel old inside. The self-image they formed in their 20's is still how many feel in their 60's.
I am 63-years-old and have never felt physically better in my life. I attribute this to my poor diet and lack of exercise. Emotionally, I'm stuck at 14. Maturity-wise, I'm still in my 20's. I don't have the energy level I had in my 20's, but at least nothing hurts.
My mental health has also improved. Many of us survived the emotional storms of our youth and are somewhat at peace. I'd like to retire someday, but almost 20 percent of us over 65 are still gainfully employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In fact, households headed by this age group are wealthier than those led by 35-year-olds. I thought the elderly were supposed to be useless.
Old people didn't always suffer discrimination. We used to be prized for our knowledge, wisdom and experience. These gifts are no longer in great demand during the age of Google. Our grandkids are too impatient to wait for an answer they can easily look up on their phone. They may see us as cuddly but clueless.
Some older adults don't appreciate these assumptions. They choose to avoid young people altogether, by living in retirement communities. They prefer the serenity of driving a golf cart to dealing with noisy kids and their parents.
Personally, I prefer living in Forest Park, a community with a diverse age range, rather than too-sedate senior living. I like sharing the streets with retirees, young parents pushing strollers and high-spirited kids. Although I've been mocked as an old man, I'm not buying into the myth that my age makes me less productive and not worthy of respect. I'll always keep my spirit of adventure and sense of curiosity.
My curiosity led me to explore ways we can combat ageism in our community. We can welcome the elderly to live among us, by inviting them into our homes for meals. We can check on them to make sure they're alright. Recently, I called an 85-year-old neighbor who suffered a fall.
"Do you want to come over and pay homage to me?" she said.
That was exactly what I wanted to do. When I arrived, a couple was just leaving. Neighbors had cleaned her house, cooked her meals and cared for her pets. Because that's how we reject ageism in Forest Park.
John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com