Ageism, a prejudicial attitude toward others based on age, is often directed at elderly family members, but you can work to reduce it. Such an attitude does not foster respect or acceptance of elderly family members. By being aware of your attitudes and having contact with older family members, you and your relatives can change and reduce the ageism that any of you may facilitate. When you combat ageism, you set a precedent for justice within yourself as well as your family.
Identify Ageist Attitudes
Identifying ageist attitudes increases people's awareness of their prejudice, a condition likely to lead to reduced ageism in your family. Discrimination often manifests in covert ways and many people may not realize they have prejudicial attitudes. In order for you to help reduce ageism in your family, you must alert your relatives to their ageist attitudes. Unless they know they are being discriminatory, family members will likely go on perpetuating ageism.
Education on Aging
Educating others leaves less room for ageism within your family. Teaching family members about aging and the elderly increases their awareness and empathy for issues that affect older relatives. Letting them know that aging is natural and inevitable creates the opportunity for younger family members to assess how they approach older relatives. When people know that aging leads to slower mental processing and less ease of movement, relatives are more likely to take it easy on elderly family members.
When they come into contact with more elderly people, family members are less likely to perpetuate ageism. Contact with people who are discriminated against often leads others to adopt more empathy and less negative attitudes toward them. This process applies to ageism -- by exposing family members to older relatives, you decrease the chances of these family members exhibiting ageism. They will learn better ways to approach elderly people and will discover the positive aspects of growing older.
Watch Your Language
Changing the language your family uses is another method of combating ageism. Language is an important part of everyday living -- words construct a reality around you. Using ageist language, such as stating that all slow drivers are old or using old as a pejorative term, does not contribute to a family environment that accepts elderly relatives. Instead, do not use language that talks about old age as though it is negative or unwanted. Avoid the temptation to use stereotypes about elderly people. Using positive language related to age and aging contributes to a more respectful climate for family members of all ages.
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