In 1968 Dr. Robert Butler coined the term “ageism” to describe the systematic discrimination against older people. He equated it to racism and sexism during the Civil Rights movement. It has been more than 45 years since Dr. Butler raised this issue, yet our culture has not changed. Ageism remains an often overlooked barrier that exists across most communities in the US, putting unfair limitations on older adults’ abilities to live to their fullest potential and devaluing them as individuals.
As a community we have seen deep cuts to programs designed to keep older adults healthy and active. While the unemployment rate is dropping for most groups, people over 55 still face a job search that will last five months longer than those of their younger peers. Sadly consequences of ageism are sometimes life-or-death. When Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana 75% of the people who perished were over the age of 60, making it clear that older adults were not the priority in either evacuation or rescue plans.