It's a tricky question to ask in the current economic climate, but why is so much emphasis placed on numbers? Numbers are at the top and bottom of most of our common problems, economy-wise, climate-wise, vote-wise and otherwise, but when it comes to numbers of years a person spends on Earth, numbers ought to be accorded less importance.
Among the young and those heading towards middle-age, there appears to be a feeling that sentient life somehow declines and eventually stops soon after the 50th year.
Stereotyping or labelling of any group, generation or individual on the basis of age is illogical. An example of this came up during the recent election circus. A piece by Niall Ferguson at The Daily Beast was basically a tear-down piece of Joe Biden's VP debate performance. Last para:
What we saw last week was not just a contrast between Irish-American political styles. We saw the opening round in the clash of generations that will soon dominate American politics. If Laughing Uncle Joe—who turns 70 this year—has nothing better to offer than “It’s going to be OK,” then I suspect a surprisingly large number of younger voters will turn instead to young Father—and future veep—Paul Ryan.
Apart from the right-wing slant of the whole piece, this pitting of one generation against another bugs me.
Some seem to assume that the accumulation of knowledge, experience and emotional intelligence the average person gathers through time simply degenerates into so much goo, with the hapless individual rapidly descending into vegetative state, just waiting for the journey to the funeral home. Where did this idea come from? I think it comes from the past and should be rapidly updated. People, of whatever age, who cling to this notion are old themselves - in their mindset.
Ageism is one more big "ism" needing to be addressed. In the USA and UK there is legislation in place to combat racism and sexism; the USA also has legislation dealing with age discrimination in employment - I don't know how well that works. I accept that there are many considerations an employer has to weigh, especially in cases where lengthy and expensive training is part of the job, when choosing between a younger person and a person who is nearing retirement. That kind of thing isn't what annoys me. I worked in the department administering Employment Tribunals in the UK for 24 years, and became sharply aware that issues are hardly ever clear-cut in such cases.
What really concerns me is the more social aspect of ageism. People of "a certain age" are expected to accept insults and sneers while ethnic minorities and younger women have some protection of the law against discrimination, slurs and name-calling.
"Ageism is as odious as racism and sexism" - that's a quote from someone called Claude Pepper, but I've said it myself, often. Description of older individuals as geezers, wrinklies, crotchety, blue-hairs, senile, etc. is abuse, as hurtful and degrading as someone being called "nigger", "rag-head" and other such slurs. Many people just don't understand this - or don't wish to understand, or care. This same carelessness and ignorance is, sadly, why legislation became necessary to stem the tide of racism and sexism. Insulting the elderly happens without thought by some, often the same people who are sensitive to racism and sexism.
Chart above is from a website Ageism Hurts.
In the section Seeing Ageism:
Once a person begins to understand the depths to which ageism insidiously infiltrates American (and UK - my addition) society, it is easy to recognize it operating at every level of daily life. The idea that old people are supposed to be frail, incompetent, less than, and laughable permeates culture so thoroughly that it takes real attention to catch the small messages as they slip by..........A further aspect of ageism is generationism, something I've noticed often, and have blogged about before. The so-called "Boomer" generation often comes under attack by younger writers of Generation X and others. Boomers are blamed for leaving later generations the dreadful mess they will soon inherit. They omit to mention the benefits they've grown up with, due in part to the efforts, courage and expertise of those older generations.