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What is lagism? Definition, where does this term come from?

Ageism is a "a attitude of discrimination or segregation against older people " according to the definition given by Le Larousse. Ageism, which could also be defined as contempt for age, results in negative attitudes towards seniors in particular, but ageism today applies to all ages.Like sexism or racism, it results in behaviors based on prejudice and discriminatory practices.

The definition of ageism

The term ageism was coined in 1969 by Robert Butler, an American gerontologist. Originally, ageism only referred to discrimination against older people. In 1978, Robert Butler gave this definition:"a deep psychosocial disorder characterized by institutionalized prejudices, stereotypes, and the establishment of a distance and/or an avoidance vis-à-vis seniors. "

This specialist in the elderly wanted, with the term ageism, to warn about the tendency of Western societies to highlight beauty, strength and performance. So many criteria that we tend to lose with age, and which are the subject of fear on the part of younger people and lead to discriminatory behavior towards seniors.

Ageism is considered today in France as discrimination liable to criminal prosecution since a law of November 2016 which specifies in its article 225-1:"constitutes discrimination any distinction made between natural persons on the basis of their origin, their sex, their family situation, their pregnancy, their physical appearance, the particular vulnerability resulting from their economic situation, apparent or known to its author, their surname, their place of residence, their state of health, their loss of autonomy, their disability, their genetic characteristics, their mores, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, their age, their political opinions, their union activities, of their ability to express themselves in a language other than French, of their membership or non-membership, real or supposed, of an ethnic group, a Nation, an alleged race or a determined religion ".

Today, the use of the term ageism has widened to all age groups. For example, we also speak of ageism when young people are also affected by discriminatory manifestations due to their age.

How does ageism manifest?

Ageism vis-à-vis the elderly takes the form of discriminatory behavior in everyday life aimed at excluding them, attitudes and prejudices about this age of life, but also institutional practices based on stereotypes based on age.

For example, in terms of health, ageism translates into possible neglect of the care provided to the elderly under the pretext of received ideas such as "health problems are inevitable at this age" or "old people are expensive to the health system, etc. In already overwhelmed emergency medical services, many situations are reported which indicate that seniors who present themselves are put after others, always for the same pretexts and prejudices related to age.

Ageism is also palpable in the media. The elderly are very poorly represented, apart from those who live in specialized establishments which are often the subject of reports, for example. But the image thus conveyed, linked to addiction, to degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, among others, does not help to fight against the ageism suffered by seniors.

Ageism manifests itself in many areas. Thus, for example, in terms of new technologies, the elderly are the subject of many received ideas. They would not be able to understand how they work and therefore it would be useless and vain for them to learn how to use a computer, a tablet, the Internet, etc.