Ageism, or discrimination against older people, runs rampant throughout many of the world's nations. As I've written about previously, in the United States, ageism rears its ugly head in advertising, on the streets of our cities, and in the workplace. Another form of discrimination -- ableism, or discrimination against the disabled -- is also an unfortunate societal ill. Put these two together and they become a toxic brew.
As people grow older, it is a fair assumption that a good number of them will eventually have a disability of some kind. For some, it could be a physical disability that requires a walker or wheelchair. For others, it could be a mental disability that affects speech, hearing or mental acuity.
Terry Fulmer and Grace Morton address this issue in an insightful article on Next Avenue. They write:
"Individuals with visible disabilities, or those we can see, are more likely to experience ableism of all forms including systemic ableism, or discrimination from society in places like schools or on public transportation. However, those with invisible disabilities — such as autism and chronic pain — are more likely to have their concerns minimized by family and health professionals and may need to fight harder to have their unique needs met. In some cases, people may even doubt that a person with an invisible disability is disabled at all. Either way, aging with disabilities is challenging, given that our society is not designed for either older or disabled people."
I call your attention to part of the last line: "...given that our society is not designed for either older or disabled people." It's a sad reality when we as a society do not respect others who are older or disabled or both, or when one individual looks at another as inferior because of age or disability or both. We have to ask ourselves what that says about our society's values and even about the common decency of individuals in our society.
It's inevitable that people grow older. It's likely that some of them will become disabled as they age. According to Fulmer and Morton, "we know that the combination of ableism and ageism can have serious effects on the livelihood and health of older adults with disabilities, including being at a higher risk for depression, obesity, smoking, heart disease and more."
We can all be anti-discrimination advocates by being sensitive to the toxic duo of ageism and ableism and making others aware of it as well.