The Trouble With Attitudes

Having recently become a member of the AAA Attitudes to Ageing Working Group, I enjoyed a very lively session a couple of weeks ago.  Gillian Peel Chaired the meeting and encouraged debate and participation whereby the discussions, whilst focused on media attitudes to ageing and with Dr Hannah Swift briefly presenting her research findings on the psychological and social aspects of ageism, we were rightly encouraged to blog!

My first thought was to check out the boundaries of Alliance’s challenge to existing political, social, and public sector attitudes to ageing.  The trouble with attitudes is that we all have them!  When it comes to how we view age, our own and others, we are perhaps in danger of believing our own attitudes are the right ones.  Right ones assume there are wrong ones.

Accepting that attitudes are clearly different we have to sort out the morality and evidence that supports or discounts various attitudes. Ageism, sexism, and racism are wrong and, apart from limited legislation about discrimination in older peoples’ employment and certain goods and services, people are free to write, joke, ridicule, perform and behave as professionals or personally towards older people in a way that I, as an older person, find reprehensible!

So let’s challenge the boundaries from a personal point of view (I insert here a disclaimer that this in no way represents the views of the AAA or the Working Group I have just joined!)

  • The “Zimmers” performance Group who by parodying young people and themselves mock age and ageing
  • “The Pinch” by David Willetts, whose attitudes towards Baby Boomers offers a slanted and partial view
  • The term “Elderly”
  •  Any service (public or third sector) based on patronage and paternalism…..which is most of them
  • The word “Silver” to collectively describe Older People as the target market
  • Prejudice that tells me who I am, what I want and what I need and defines me  without effectively engaging with me.

These are just a few… get us started and I need to conclude by the way, that being over the age of sixty, fully engaged in the various patronising and paternalistic engagement processes does not make my attitudes right!  Those who think they always are, is not related to their age but their personality!

Mervyn Eastman is Co-Director & Society Secretary of Change Agents Network





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