Oftentimes when we think or hear about ageism, the focus is on the discrimination that older adults may experience, but how often do we look at it through the lens of younger generations? Ageism is not specific to one age group, but can have an impact on all ages ranging from 0-100+. Since the focus all month has been on millennial family caregivers and we are now at end of it, I thought it was important to touch on a challenge that many of them may face, ageism. Let's get to it!
Every generation goes through life with certain stereotypes hanging over their head. Stereotypes towards aging fall under the ageism category. For millennials (those born between 1980 - 1995), the stereotypes we mainly hear are that we're lazy, self-absorbed, and we hold a sense of entitlement. We know that many stereotypes are formed based on the experiences we've had with people and what we have been taught intentionally/unintentionally. Pushing through stereotypes can be challenging for everyone. However, imagine just for a second what it's like for millennial family caregivers who are trying to provide quality care for their loved ones, while navigating through the world of ageism. This can be difficult for many. A young, 20 something individual, who may not have tons of experience under the belt, is seen as insignificant at times, especially if he/she is trying to use his/her voice. The assumption is this person knows nothing and is only using his/her ego to get what one desires.
Stereotypes ruin relationships before they are even formed. Stereotypes prohibit progression. Stereotypes create blindspots, causing individuals the inability to see the benefits of working as a team. Stereotypes towards different generations, race, gender, etc. is a challenge that many of us face on a daily basis, but it's a giant that is most definitely worth fighting.
Have you ever had a perspective or an idea to share, but it was shot down or ignored because you were "too young" to provide your thoughts? It's hard to be taken seriously when people have already formed an opinion of who you are and what you have/don't have to offer. As a black woman, who is also a millennial, I know all too well what it feels like to not be taken seriously and to be seen by society as just like "all the others." I'm sure if I added family caregiver to the list, everything would be intensified. When we mix race, gender, and age together, we see why some individuals have to fight 10 times harder to advocate and care for their loved ones. This is why the need to fight ageism in addition to all of the other ism's out in the world today is a MUST!
The fight starts with:
1. Changing how we talk about our aging experience. It's not just society that says negative things, at times it's something that was said internally.
2. Challenging negative conversations that are directed towards different age groups.
3. Acknowledging there's no age group that is better than the other. We all have different gifts, experiences, and personalities that are needed in today's society.
Change from within, challenge negativity and always work to acknowledge the value of others.
Disrupt that Ish
Disrupt: to break apart.
When it comes to disrupting stereotypes, I immediately think about using positivity as a tool. The Dementia Guru (see video and hit play) did an amazing job disrupting the negative stereotypes about millennials by using positivity. In addition to that, there are also ways that millennial caregivers can stand up for themselves as a way to disrupt the negative ish. I came across an article, that talked about ageism and millennial caregivers. One of the things I found most helpful in this article was the tips for millennial caregivers who are facing ageism:
2.Do your own research
3.Don't be afraid to be persistent with asking tons of questions.
At the end of the day, we can only hope that something said or done can change the negative stereotypes that society has placed on millennials, but until then we have to do what we can in order to continue moving. What's that? Show the negativity who's boss by consistently demonstrating all of your dope qualities, strengths, and letting the people know you are a bomb family caregiver!
See a great article by The Dementia Guru about millennial caregivers here.