What is ageism? What does it really mean?

The dictionary defines ageism as: “prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person’s age”.

Strictly speaking, this could be bias of any age. But it is mostly directed at older people. And,I’ve experienced it myself.

Years ago, when I was 52, I started online dating…again. I was in great shape, looked good and felt even better. Putting up several headshots and full body photos I completed my profile on Match.com.

One of my profile photos – Taken by Carl Gooding Photography

I felt confident that I would be getting many emails, winks and requests to chat right away. But instead, what I got was crickets. Well, except for the occasional 70+ year old gentleman searching for love after the death of his wife.

Or worse, the 21-year-old looking for a MILF hookup.

But the men in my age group were completely absent. When I asked a male friend of mine to look at my profile to see what I was doing wrong, he immediately said, you posted your age as 52.

When I said, “yeah, that’s because I am 52”, he said, “50 is the cut-off”. I knew exactly what he was talking about. Match has search criteria, and part of that is age group.

I fit into an age group that was older than desired by most men my age. Following his advice, I changed my age to 48. I left everything else the same. Everything.

Within minutes of changing my age, I started getting inquiries.

I met several men over the next few months, and I asked every one of them what the cut off age was in their search criteria. They all said 50 was top. They also all had a lower age range of 21.

These are men 45-60.

How are we to compete with that except to lie about our age?

I ended up meeting John through online dating, who happens to be five years younger than I am. I told him right away that I lied on my profile, and that my real age was 52. He said he didn’t care at all.

But when I asked him if he had an age limit on his search criteria, he admitted that yes he did, and yes it was 50. We would never have met if I hadn’t lied. We ended up together, and happy, but I still experience ageism at times, when we are together.

For instance, one of his buddies had no idea I was 5 years older, and when he found out, he said, “Wow, good for you!” to my husband. Like he deserved a medal for marrying an older woman!

We are bombarded by a society set on putting us in our place.

And that place is to label us as “old”. Don’t wear jeans after 50, hair and make-up must be “age appropriate”, you need to “act your age” and letting your gray hairs show, was a sure sign a woman had “let herself go”.

I found myself searching for a new job at age 56 and was getting nowhere fast. As soon as I took my age off all of my online profiles and my resume, I started to get responses back from my inquires.

And if an agency interviewed me, they would do everything they could to find out my age without coming right out and asking me. I became a master of the vague non-answer.

Luckily I was finally interviewed for a position by a woman who is older than I am. We hit it off immediately, and I got the job. I spoke with her a few months into the position about age and ageism.

She said because of her age and experience, she knew this position called for a more “seasoned” individual. She guessed my age to be close to hers, but never asked. I felt lucky that I was not only interviewed by a woman, but also an “older” woman.

Photo for the company directory – natural hair

We are assulted with ageist remarks so much that they have become the norm. Add sexism to the mix and it’s even worse for us ladies. Men somehow get distinguished when they get older, wearing their salt and pepper hair like a badge of honor. But we are constantly hit with imagines and ads telling us to “look younger”.

I don’t want to have to look younger to be accepted!

So, what do we do about this, ladies? The good news is things are already starting to change…slowly. There is an entire gray-movement out there of beautiful women not only embracing their gray hairs, but flaunting them too.

It has always been perfectly acceptable for a man to have gray hair, and it’s even considered ‘distinguished’. Not so much with women.

But we are slowly taking over and letting our own silver shine, and there’s no stopping us. I joined the gray revolution and I’m happy I did. However, when my granddaughters saw me, they asked why my hair was getting white, and if I was going to die soon.

They never asked their grandfather that.

We need to change these ideals in our children, so when they grow up, it will be just as “normal” for Grandma to have white hair as it is for Grandpa. Ageism is a learned agenda that carries on from one generation to the next.

We can’t redefine ageism in the dictionary, but we can redefine our attitude towards aging.

Reader Comments

  1. Angie

    I love your powerful words, your energy is like a kick in my butt to walk my talk, to be confidently me and to write about the struggle of being as brave as my mantras and affirmations.

  2. Leslie Clingan

    In looking for a part-time job to supplement my retirement check, I have experienced ageism. On paper, I am 60. But there’s 60 and there’s 60. One 60 year-old may be unable to stand on her feet, shelve books, use a computer database, etc., while others can. I applied to be a library tech for $7.25 an hour and didn’t even get called to interview because there were others more qualified than I. Yet I have 28 years experience as a librarian and a Master’s in library science. Discouraging.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Ugh, Leslie that is terrible! I hope you are not putting your age, or anything that actually gives your age away on your resume. Unfortunately that is what we have to do to be seen!!

  3. Sherry

    This is a great article Loretta. It’s so true, especially in the job market and with dating. I’m encouraged, though, that some companies, such as L’Oréal, are beginning to take notice of our age group and are beginning to realise we are a force to be reckoned with!

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thank you Sherry. I’m surprised more don’t, but happy a few finally are seeing our worth. Our age group stays in jobs longer than any other!

  4. Amy Kennedy

    Wow, this is so spot on! I meet people (honestly both men and women) that are shown the door all the time or not even given a second thought because of their age. When I hear corporations brag about the average age of their staff getting younger each year, shooting for upper 20’s and low 30’s, I just am completely at a loss.

    • Loretta Sayers
      Loretta Sayers

      Thank you Amy. Yes, I agree. And what those employers don’t seem to care about is, the average length those younger employees stay on the job is only about 3 years.

  5. jodie filogomo

    Gosh, I loved reading this. It just makes you wonder what age has to do with the price of tea in China. It’s like judging a person by the color of their skin. Silly…if you ask me!!
    I have a feeling I wouldn’t have changed my age like you did…..at least now. I’d be a stubborn fool instead of meeting my soul mate. Good thing you’re not like me!

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