Ageism Is Rampant, Poll Confirms, But We Can Fight It Together

The University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging has released a new report, “Everyday Ageism and Health,” and some of the results are startling: more than 80 percent of the older adults polled say they commonly experience at least one form of ageism in their day-to-day lives. What’s more, the poll was conducted before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, where we’ve seen troubling narratives emerge about the value of older adults in our society.

The results were taken from a survey of 2,000 people aged 50 to 80 last December. Most concerning was that those who said they routinely experience three or more forms of ageism — 40 percent of respondents — were more likely to have poor mental and physical health. There were some encouraging results, though. The vast majority had positive views of their own aging. They’re feeling comfortable about being themselves, they think their life is better than they thought it would be, and they have a strong sense of purpose. (The poll team included GSA members Erica Solway, PhD, MPH, MSW, and Julie Ober Allen, PhD, MPH.)

GSA has been long involved with efforts to reduce ageism through its leadership role in the Reframing Aging Initiative. And since the COVID-19 pandemic started, we’ve released a couple of resources to address the pervasive ageism in American society, which can have a major negative impact on older people’s lives.

We recently created “Understanding Ageism and COVID-19,” an infographic that highlights several false narratives about older adults in the pandemic and reframes them in the context of science. (There’s a Spanish-language version available, too.) In late April, GSA hosted “Reframing the Response to COVID-19: Applying Reframed Language to Counteract Ageism,” a webinar that offers ways that we can respond using empirically-supported narratives to frame the public discourse on social and scientific issues — including strategies for connecting COVID-19 and aging without perpetuating ageist tropes.

If you want to help make a difference as we confront ageism, GSA will be your partner. Together we can challenge “us vs. them” thinking. Together we can improve public understanding of what aging means and the many ways that older people contribute to our society.

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