Let Us Talk Ageism

If you followed us on social media, receive our monthly newsletter, or have seen our presentations, you are probably familiar with my headshot. In this particular photo, my hair is colored as I’ve done for years to conceal the gray in my hair. However, during the stay-at-home pandemic orders, the natural color of my hair began to peek through as I’d imagine it did for many other women.  And if I’m being honest… this has been my natural hair color since my late 20’s early 30’s.  But, due to social norms, I felt pressured to maintain it colored for decades.

That’s when I began asking myself, why? Why do I feel the need to hide my natural hair? And why are men not as strongly affected by the societal pressure to conceal their natural hair color?… But we won’t go there in this article. Instead, I’d like to focus on the topic of Ageism.

Since going natural, I’ve realized people treat you much differently. For one, no one comments on your hair. Typically, with any new haircut or color change, it usually elicits a comment, even if only an acknowledgment, but it’s as if they are afraid to make the slightest remark.  And when you do get comments, they are more like this “You look great for your age,” or “Well, you still have great hair.” Then, of course, the biggest question that is now tossed at me is, “When are you going to retire? Excuse me!? Why the sudden consideration or a concern?  Did going natural suddenly made me lose my senior housing expertise, gerontology degree, or my capability to run a multi-million-dollar company?

During this transformation, I have learned that my experience is only one among thousands. I learned that Ageism, unfortunately, is very prevalent, especially among professional women. A recent WerkLabs survey of more than 700 working professionals over the age of 40 from diverse backgrounds were asked to rate their experiences with Ageism. Overall, 60% of survey respondents indicate that they have encountered Ageism in their professional lives. Of the survey participants choosing to disclose their gender, nearly 62% of women and 52% of men indicate having experienced Ageism. (read WerkLabs full survey)

Although, I am very aware of the needs and capabilities of our residents in our communities and often preach that every person has a purpose until their last breath. It then occurred to me that I’m also guilty of Ageism. Whether it be addressing a senior inappropriately or assuming that they can’t remember, make decisions, or think as clearly as I might be able to. So next time you assume or presume that someone’s capabilities are not up to par with yours, do yourself a favor and Don’t!

This experience has indeed opened my eyes to how susceptible we all are to Ageism and how culpable our society is in promoting Ageism; luckily, there is a solution, treat everyone with respect and dignity regardless of age, gender, or sex and embrace that natural beautiful silver hair!