Chico State newsletter celebrating campus diversity fall 2012

Time to End Ageism

By: Shelby Hudak
Seema Sehrawat

Dr. Seema Sehrawat, the Director of the Center on Aging.

Each day 10,000 U.S. citizens turn 65, according to the Census Internet Release and Current Populations Report, Special Studies. Thanks to advanced medicine, people are living longer, giving the United States its largest population facing the potential of ageism.

The International Longevity Center states that “ageism refers to ideas, attitudes, beliefs and practices on the part of individuals that are biased against persons or groups based on their older age.”

In the book Agewise: Fighting the New Ageism in America, author Margaret Morganroth says, “Ageism is more than a negative view of old or middle age, it provides a set of terrifying anticipations.”

It is important for everyone to be aware of the negative impacts of ageism.

Seema Sehrawat, director of the CSU, Chico Interdisciplinary Center on Aging, said ageism “impacts your self-image and how you look at yourself.”

Of the challenges people face as a result of ageism, employment is one of the biggest.

“It takes older people usually six weeks longer than their counterparts to find a job,” Sehrawat said.

Companies often hire young employees because they find it more beneficial to invest in them, as opposed to an older employee. A 30-year-old simply has the ability to stay at the company longer than a 60-year-old.

Ageism mainly affects the older population, but there are also cases of reverse ageism affecting youth.

“Just like college-age students who feel that they may be discriminated against in the workplace for being too young, older adults are discriminated [against] – in a culture that values youth – for being too old,” said Cynthia Siemsen, chair of the sociology department.

Feeling attractive and valuable is also complicated by ageism.

“The media really forces us to look younger,” Sehrawat said. “We are always put on this stand of trying to look younger and not feel comfortable with our age so people are buying all these products to look younger.”

People internalize how they perceive their age. American culture teaches us at a young age that youth is beauty, and people feel unattractive as they begin the aging process.

Older woman gardening with young african american boy

Photo courtesy of the Center on Aging.

Because Chico is a college town, older individuals can really feel out of place with the majority of students being younger in age.

Students can help fight ageism by avoiding assumptions about people based on their age, and by accepting individuals for who
they are.

“We need to focus on the positive aspects of aging,” Sehrawat said. “Aging brings experience and the ability to open one’s self up to different experiences.”

“Ageism is equally as important as any other ‘ism,’” Sehrawat said.

“We think less about age despite the fact that it doesn't matter what gender you are, what race you are, or even what class you are, we are all aging,” Siemsen said.

Chico State is an active ally for preventing ageism through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s conversation on diversity regarding ageism and through Dr. Seema Sehrawat’s constant research. It is important we come together as allies to fight ageism. To learn more, please visit http://www.csuchico.edu/icoa/index.shtml