Age bias can also be a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment (Dictionary.com, 2019). I have also heard ageism defined as a prejudice against our future self. Ouch! It is an “-ism” by which everyone who lives long enough will be affected, and it’s likely one of the few “-isms” that are still socially acceptable. Consider the popular birthday cards that have a picture of a well-worn older adult on the cover and then a derogatory comment about aging on the inside, along with a happy birthday message! Many of us have sent or received one of these cards, and we see similar content floating in and out of our social media feeds as a matter of routine. Now, substitute the aging imagery with imagery for a person of color, a person of a certain religion, or a homosexual. Would greeting cards or social media posts that poke fun at these groups of people be socially acceptable? Considered funny? Marketable?
So, why do we laugh at jokes and cartoons that poke fun at elders?
You may think that I am being extreme or that I’ve lost my sense of humor. I hope it’s evident by now that I have a sense of humor. Yet, since I learned more about the prevalence of age bias and why it matters so much, especially for our health, I have moved old-age jokes and greeting cards out of the funny column. I think it’s sad when a society finds humor in belittling our elders. Instead, we should be lifting them up, celebrating them, learning from them, and appreciating them.
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