Ageism is bad enough, but it’s often compounded by sexism. It is humiliating for a boy to be told he’s playing like a girl but even worse for a man expressing doubts or concerns to be called an old woman. The stereotype of the old woman is anxious, dependent, useless, and a burden – if she isn’t a nasty, bitter old witch. Dismissing old women in this way renders them invisible because they are considered of no use to society.
My recent interviews with women from the previous generation, dolefully named the Silent Generation (born before 1946), challenge these stereotypes. In their late seventies, eighties, and nineties, these women are leading fulfilling lives; contributing to their communities and to the wider society.
The United Nations has declared the years 2021 to 2030 to be the Decade of Healthy Ageing: a time for worldwide collaboration to promote longer and healthier lives. Physical health is emphasised not as an end but as a necessary condition for full participation in society. This endeavour is part of a magnificent movement towards creating age-friendly neighbourhoods. The World Health Organization has taken the lead through its age-friendly cities framework.