Ageism or age discrimination is the perhaps the most looked over and accepted form of discrimination in modern society. Racism, sexism, homophobia and social class discrimination are all less common than age discrimination, yet the reactions towards them are much more visceral.

In my humble opinion, negative assumptions and biases regarding any individual based on any discrimination or factors that do not relate to the individuals abilities to perform a function cannot be morally or ethically justified.

Ageism comes in many different forms. Indeed most of us have faced ageism in our lifetimes in some form or another. Sometimes the way that adult children respond to their parents may be ageist, e.g. if they treat the parents as if they were children, or if the adult children assume they are automatically entitled to a parent’s assets or resources, (“I’m young, I deserve it more”). Sometimes service providers may be ageist when they treat older adults in a paternalistic way.

Policies, decisions and negotiations that fail to take into account the impact on older members of society may reflect systemic ageism. A decision by a government or community group to not include any seniors on their advisory committee when the issues under discussion primarily affect older adults “because they wouldn’t understand the policy issues” is another form of ageism, as is denying older adults opportunities to build their knowledge of issues.

So is tokenism: tokenism occurs when a small group is invited to participate in an event or initiative to demonstrate that a program is progressive or to show someone has consulted the constituency, but in fact has ignored their views.

Mongolia has a long tradition of respecting the elder’s wisdom and judgement. For example there is a folk story about an ancient warrior who hid his father in the mountain cave when their clan decided to sacrifice all the elders because they were deemed valueless. Later when the clan faced challenges that they have never encountered before the warrior sought the advice from his father. Only then when his clan was able to overcome it did they realize the importance and value of elders who have far more experience than their succeeding generation.

On the other, in each generation there are some discordance in the relationship of youth and the elderly. This can be observed every time someone generalizes a particular age group through the statement, “you’re do old to do that or this” or “young people these days are no good, they wouldn’t have made it in my days”. Sadly statements similar to this are all too common in Mongolia and are accepted blindly.

The most dangerous aspect of ageism is the fact that it is very subtle with the elder’s rights and respect slowly, almost invisibly being eroded. We are not able to recognise it as well as other forms of discrimination because it is accepted as the truth by both discriminator and the one being discriminated against.

This is more often true in the case of older people in Mongolia because the average retirement age for women is 55 and for men are 60. This is relatively low compared other countries because the average life expectancy for Mongolia was only 68 in 2010. This number has increased by four each decade.

In most western countries including the USA, 55 is considered middle aged. Yet when someone reaches over 55 in Mongolia, it becomes almost impossible to find new employment and colleagues unless of the same age treat them differently. Most requirements for jobs have an age range included and for the most part if someone is over 35-40 years of age, it is unlikely for them to qualify.

There are many people in Mongolia although capable and able, who actually have started to believe the wrong assumptions about themselves by the society in general. This leads to the negative placebo effect where one start to unconsciously focus on all the things that confirm that the assumptions are true while ignoring contradictory evidence. This can lead to depression and other mental illnesses.

Many psychological experts believe that one’s mental state has a great influence on the body’s immune system and studies show that when someone experiences a low mental state such as depression and indolence, the individual is more prone to common diseases.

The loss of mind, dementia or the loss of cognitive ability occurs often in Mongolia and ageism is a definite contributing cause of these debilitating ailments.

We need to remember that age is something we can’t help and that everyone goes or will go through it. Yet the old forget what it was like to be young and the young act as though they will not get old. It is easy to assume and blindly accept but it is difficult to learn and learning is primary ability of the human cognitive faculty. If we don’t use this faculty we will lose it like so much potential we have as a species.

With any discrimination and wrong doing based on stereotype, the fundamental mistake we make is presuming that our notions are facts without evidence.What we must realize all is that discrimination stems from prejudices and ignorance.

They are just assumptions or beliefs about certain groups or individuals and it is easy to forget that our assumptions are just that:assumptions. As they are not based on fact therefore they are suspect and in most cases false when youconsider modern science.

Everyone is entitled to their private opinion, however, this is only up to the point where they do not unjustly discriminate against or penalize others, reducing the opportunity for that person to live a full and productive life.

Article from UB Post