My students are working hard to identify and understand why particular issues are contemporary, world problems. When I wrote “Baby Boomers” and “Ageism” on the whiteboard, heads went down, a refrain of heavy, heavy sighs occupied the room, then suddenly students had the most urgent need to take care of Mother Nature’s business.
This is the way class starts when this topic is introduced – every time.
The idea that individuals over the age of 60, Boomers, have something interesting to contribute to the workplace, to conversations, to expressions of creativity and individuality, is generally stone cold boring to my students. The classroom is a microcosm, an undiscussed, but widely held belief system that getting old in America means only losses: of status, ability, confidence, of all things which create vitality, creativity and joy.
In the U.S. our society is known as a functionalist society where we are respected according to our ability function at high levels or contribute back to society. Once Boomers retire or think of retiring, status and identities and respect are lost or downgraded, purpose changes and this is one of the most frightening facts: men in U.S. at retirement age, are the age group with the highest suicide rate.
Following defining Ageism and Boomers today, the students performed mock interviews with each other, discriminating for any random, even unlawful reasons they could muster. They then discussed activities seniors should and should not be doing: physical exercise, coding, moving fast, sky diving.
Following this discussion, they viewed a video clip of the Silver Snipers, world class video gamers whose average age is 72. The room became lit with interest.
Until one has felt discrimination based on an unexamined belief system, such as ageism and then looked at aging from the perspective of the Silver Snipers killing it, literally in the gaming world, has anyone examined aging in America? Have you felt any discrimination ever and better yet, have you broken any age-related rules lately?