Society's Negative View of Aging Ageism Compared to Racism and Sexism Term Paper

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Society's Views Of The Aging Populace

This is not an undisclosed secret that the contemporary society is obsessed with beauty and perfection. A world in which no one ever gets sick, crops and animals grow faster and better and parents choose the physical features of their children sounds great. This perfect way of life has been made possible due to the advancements in genetic engineering. However, this technological modification has both strong and weak points. Not only it can improve our way of life in a considerable manner but it could also have overwhelming consequences beyond the control of an individual ("Imagine a Perfect World," 2011, p. NA).

The American society today has turned out to be one that maintains a stereotypic and negative perception of the elderly individuals. This kind of negativism or stereotypic view of aging and aged individuals is readily obvious and noticeable in their language, media, and humor. For instance, the common phrases such as over the hill and don't be an old fuddy-duddy crystal-clearly refer to old age as a phase of powerlessness, incapability and hopelessness. Ageism is the term that is used to describe this pigeonholed and often negative partiality against the older adults. In simple words, ageism is an approach, action, or institutional composition by which a person or group is subordinated because of age or any obligation of position in society merely on the basis of age. Thus, ageism (as an "ism"), mirrors a narrow-mindedness and unfairness in society against older adults (Woolf, 1998).

This is evident that the western society could go way beyond to maintain a youthful image. The people constantly quest to pursue beauty. More and more people are going to intense and excessive lengths from nose jobs to tummy tucks in order to attain the professed ideal and perfect look. As a society, the west was never as obsessed with image as it is today. The pursuit to pull off the perfect body appears to have reached dizzying heights "from fake tans and tooth whitening to hair transplants and facelifts" ("The Quest for Beauty," 2010, p. 10). This kind of quest is particularly popular and obvious among the members of ethnic minorities who yearn for westernizing their look ("The Quest for Beauty," 2010, p. 10). If truth be told, the quest for beauty and prevention of ageism has taken the form of a new kind of globalization "where an increasingly narrow Western beauty ideal is being exported around the world like a crude universal brand" ("The Quest for Beauty," 2010, p. 10).

This global quest of body improvement, particularly in the western side of the world, has taken the form of a new religion. There are hundreds and thousands of people in the Western society who are eager to be the members of an all-pervading culture of bodily perfection. However, those who are sensible enough and respect aging and elderly people describe such people as unfortunate victims at the mercy of superior social forces and locked into an unquenchable thirst for appreciation. Regrettably, Western society has become one that celebrates and iconize the early stages of life i.e. The youthful phase. This trend is also common in the Western society because of the continuous fuelling by the marketing campaigns and a commercially-motivated Western media that promise bodily improvement. However, in actual, it only reflects an all the time more narrow palette of gorgeousness, good looks and splendor ("The Quest for Beauty," 2010, p. 10).

To cut a long story short, a majority of people in the West go to farthest lengths in order to achieve the so-called perfection. One of the main reasons of this beauty quest is the fact that the contemporary "Caucasian beauty ideal has been packaged and exported globally, and just as surgical operations to Westernise oriental eyes have become more popular, so the beauty standard has become increasingly prescriptive" ("The Quest for Beauty;," 2010, p. 10). For instance, the utilization of skin-lightening and hair-straightening products has become common in Africa. Similarly, women in South America are now having operations that could transform them into their Barbie doll ideal. The trend of having blonde-haired models on the magazine covers has now become very common. Moreover, Anorexia is all the more common among the females. As already mentioned, westernizing one's body has been converted into a new type of globalization ("The Quest for Beauty," 2010, p. 10).

It is important to mention here that ageism is different from other "isms" like sexism and racism.
Firstly, age categorization is not fixed. The age of an individual change as the time passes. Therefore, age categorization is differentiated by constant change. On the other hand, other societal classification systems like race and gender remain unvarying. Secondly, no one is free from achieving the status of an older individual. The ageist approach and mind-set may have an effect on the self-concept (Woolf, 1998). Thirdly, ageism can have an influence on anybody who lives long enough. However, limited groups are affected due to sexism or racism. Moreover, the bodily signs of race and sex can be noticed from one's birth onwards. On the other hand, the signs of old age are frequently slighter and ongoing (Redburn & McNamara, 1998).

Thus, it is the need of the time that the common people and organizations intervene to eliminate the prevailing "isms" in the society. It is a bitter reality that prejudice and discrimination have become a common practice in the society. It is exceedingly important for the sensible and optimistic people to come forward and do all they can to successfully get rid of the menaces of all-pervading chauvinism, intolerance and biasness. However, it is also to be kept in mind that the removal of such detrimental and damaging elements present in the society is not an easy task. Therefore, it is significant for every one of us to understand diversity and have a will to deal with all prevalent forms of discrimination. In order to eliminate prejudice and discrimination, the first step involves the unlearning of the various negative "isms." In short, it is exceedingly important to strive towards the development of a multicultural society free from all kinds of social oppression in the form of sexism, racism and ageism.

Parenting, most importantly, can encourage a mind set of good perception in the children towards the elderly or anyone different from themselves. It is obvious that a majority of today's young children will grow into mature, old individuals. Moreover, the descriptions of the aged that are portrayed in children's literature also hold great significance. Regrettably, most of the contemporary literature focuses on the negative characteristics of aging and reflects the ageist attitudes of the society. It is, therefore, really important for the parents to carefully select children's literature so that they can promote more encouraging attitudes toward aging and facilitate children adapt to the aging process in a productive manner. The parents need to select anti-ageist literature for their children to inject in their minds a positive portrayal of aging (Mcguire, 1993).

Parents need to play a vital part in encouraging positive attitude towards aging because the studies have shown that even the small children are used to of using ageist language. Even the preschool children are found to have ageist and negative attitudes toward the elderly in the society. This is the best age for influencing children because by age 12-13, it is not easy to change or mould the children's ageist attitudes. It is unfortunate that such early ageist attitudes frequently develop into self-fulfilling insights with the aging of the child. This must change if the children of today's modern era are to successfully familiarize themselves to aging. Parents must choose positive books for the children as they have the power to enlighten and form the thoughtfulness, responses and attitudes of children to a great extent. Thus, reading literature that project the images of the elderly in a positive way would play a major role in attitude formation of children towards aging and elderly people (Mcguire, 1993).


It is regrettable that the Western society has been brainwashed into accepting it as true that in order to be loved and be loveable, one needs a smaller nose or bigger breasts or tighter skin or skinnier legs or smoother stomachs. It is astonishing to know that now even the banks are offering loans for plastic surgery. Moreover, families in the United States of America having annual incomes less than $25,000 account for thirty percent of all cosmetic surgery patients. It is the high time to recognize and understand the fact that the vision of the people has now been trained in such a way that they appreciate the artificial and this appreciation benefits the beauty industry tremendously. It is not enough to blame the sinister commercial forces for this trend but the society must also accept its own implicit, culturally accustomed, participation ("The Quest for Beauty," 2010, p. 10)......

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