Beware of your age bias or what’s in a name!

I have been part of a group that is trying to establish a national Institute in Sarasota county.  We have been calling it the Institute of the Ages.  Some have commented that people don’t want to be part of something that suggests aging.  That led me to conclude that age bias is alive and well.

I want to explore two aspects of age bias.  The first is our own bias about aging—the messages we give ourselves, the assumptions we have about aging.  The second (to be explored in a later blog) are the messages we receive from society at large.

I will start with my own age bias. At a party, a convertible with the top down arrived.  My first thought was how nice to be going to a party with younger people. I soon realized that the driver was a man who lives at the retirement community, Plymouth Harbor, with others in the car from the same place.  I was startled.  Is that the image I have of an 85-year-old man and if he is so “with it” why is he in Plymouth Harbor?  My thought process reflected my bias about aging–that if you are in a retirement community you would not be in a convertible—especially in the back seat. I was doing is what we do all the time—we categorize people by age.  We categorize teen-agers, middle agers, baby boomers and older people.  But you and I know the reality—that there is more heterogeneity as people age, not less.

What do you think of the name, the Institute for the Ages?  What assumptions do you have about aging?  Let us know.

Nancy K. Schlossberg,

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