Don't you hate it when people make assumptions based solely on someone's age? Ever do it yourself? Ever do it to yourself? Or accept that the way things are is the way they have to be?
In order to change how we think about age, we need to change how we talk about it. It starts with each of us, one conversation at a time. Whether you're 18 or 80, follow these five steps to call out ageism when you see it and create more choices for yourself as you age.
1. Make a friend who's older or younger than you are. Adding buddies outside of your age group can broaden your world, change your perspective and challenge your biases about age — young or old. Nearly 4 in 10 adults (37 percent) have a close friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are. If your close companions are all your age, then consider creating more age diversity in your social circles.
2. Assess how you feel about your own aging. Research shows that your attitude about aging can affect how long you live. So tune in to how you're feeling about your future, and know that there's no magic cut-off date between feeling young and feeing old. It's not just personal; your own biases about age and aging can affect the way people around you think. The next time you find yourself judging yourself or someone else because of age, challenge your assumptions about why age holds so much power in your mind.
3. Stop using ageist language. “Act your age.” “She looks great for her age.” Ever heard it? Said it? The language we use creates our reality. So pay attention to how you talk about age. Do you use age to joke about your abilities or to make generalizations about other people because of their age? Do people around you do this? Notice how you and others around you use the words “young” and “old.” If you find yourself or someone you know relying on commonly accepted ageist language, ask why.
4. Be open to perspectives from coworkers of all ages. With people living and working longer, more companies have five generations working side by side. As this trend continues, working well with people of all ages will become an even more important skill. On top of that, research suggests that age-diverse teams can be more creative and productive. So it's time to see age differences at work as an opportunity. Think of an older or younger colleague you admire and ask him or her to be your mentor. Better yet, talk with your employer about setting up a cross-generational mentoring program.
5. Call out ageism in media, pop culture and advertising. We all have a role to play in creating a demand for new stories about aging in the media. If you notice a TV show or an advertisement that does a good job challenging outdated stereotypes about age, or, on the flip side, if you see something that bothers you, start a conversation about it on social media using #disruptaging.
It's time to Disupt Aging.™ And we can all play a part. Join the #Disruptaging conversation today.