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Ageism: What to do about it?

Corrie ten Boom's life experience from the atrocities of World War II come alive in a book she co-authored with John and Elizabeth Sherrill titled The Hiding Place. This story begins happy and ends positive, yet the entire middle is a first-hand account of starvation, torture, sacrifice, and death.

And it happened to Christian people who loved their neighbor as they loved themselves (See Matthew 19:19 of the New Testament).
I wonder if I would be so courageous as the ten Boom family in like circumstances. Lying to the government and running an underground operation at the risk of everyone involved just to end up beaten, starved, or dead.

That is the big question all Christian people must ask themselves.
And here are some more:
Would I stand for such abuses of power over fellow citizens? Would I help a corrupt government in order to keep my family safe even though I know what they are doing is inherently against my beliefs? Or would I work against it as the ten Boom's did?

From the beginning of the story, Corrie demonstrates to the audience the matter-of-fact Christian attitude of her family:
"From the very first I had been baffled by Otto's brusqueness with the old man [Christoffels]. It wasn't anything he did--not in our presence anyway--but what he didn't do. No standing back to let the older man go first, no helping on with a coat, no picking up a dropped tool..." (61). Then, Willem shares his opinion on why Otto is unkind to Christoffels: "The old have no value to the State. They're also harder to train in the new ways of thinking. Germany is systematically teaching disrespect for old age" (61).

The issue here is not only antisemitism, but also ageism.

In case you haven't heard of ageism (I had not heard the term until a year ago--am I totally unexposed or what?), I would like to share the definition as found on dictionary.com:

age·ism  [ey-jiz-uhm]

1.discrimination against persons of a certain age group.
2.a tendency to regard older persons as debilitated, unworthy of attention, or unsuitable for employment.

I am reminded of all the old people jokes embedded into commercials, TV programming, and movies and cringe at it. While none of us are murdering our fellow man because of his appearance or heritage, are we turning our backs on common courtesies and respect for our elders because our society has found a way to make it entertaining or acceptable?

I would like to know what you think about ageism.
What conscious efforts do you make to teach your children that older people are a treasure and not a burden?

Ideas other than just yelling at my son, "Stop talking trash about people older than you!" would be greatly appreciated.


  1. Okay, I'm going to reveal my inner geek here, but this reminds me of a Star Trek Next Generation episode. The Enterprise happened upon a planet whose people euthanized the elderly when they hit 60 and it was considered a celebration. Needless to say, the crew of the Enterprise had a major problem with this practice and grappled with ageism the whole hour. Hmm...I wish I remembered how it was resolved. Then I might have some profound reason for disclosing my geekiness. ;)

  2. This comment was pulled off The Purple Lady Facebook page:
    Zachary says, "I shave my head for two purposes, it makes me look cooler, and to help me escape the inherent ageism that is very prevalent in our society and around the world. It is worse in other countries."

    Thank you for some male perspective on the subject.

  3. As with any -ism it is embedded in our society and can happen very subtle as you mentioned though jokes, TV, even cartoons. With the "greatest generation" or baby boomers beginning the retirement cycle many are leaving the workplace. Still more are having to enter the workplace because of the downward tend of the economy. It is interesting be in my 30s and read articles in AARP educating about social networks or how to use the Internet to find jobs.

    When going through my training for my job a mentor was showing me how to check for potential employees ages. Since that information was not listed they "modeled" how they looked at the graduation year of the candidate. Based on that and doing some simple math they could tell if the candidate had too much experience or as they put it wouldn't be able to teach an old dog new tricks. Needless to say that was not a practice I adopted.

    Finally, as the definition describes it can be any age group. I was not considered for a promotion due to the fact I did not have enough experience. What was said behind closed doors was they don't look old enough to have this supervisory role. It can happen at any age.

    Thanks for the thought provoking blog entry. It's been years since I read that book. Will need to reread it.


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