Ageist Stereotypes Threaten Perception Of Pres. Biden
If you are older and exhibit any sign of weakness, you are prone to negative ageist stereotypes that are virtually impossible to rebut.
Joe Biden’s re-election bid seems to be in free fall because Special Counsel Robert Hur on Feb. 5 called him an “elderly” man with “a poor memory.”
An ABC/Ipsos poll on Sunday that showed 86% of Americans now think that Biden, 81, is too old for his job.
Whether intentional or inadvertent, the stereotypical terms used by Hur in his 345-page report to describe Biden evoke powerful stereotypes that portray old age as a time of decline, frailty, incompetence, debilitation, disease, and death.
Those stereotypes are virtually impossible to rebut because they are not real. They reflect what viewers think they see, not what is actually there.
Hur’s description of Biden as “elderly” was particularly damaging.
Since time immemorial, people have divided others into groups with common attributes to make it easier to process information and understand the world. Stereotypes about aging are particularly persistent because many people are subconsciously terrified by the prospect of death. People tend to push away older people to avoid being reminded of their own mortality.
Experts in the field of aging avoid the term “elderly” because it summons images of frail people who are confused, helpless, weak, stooped and bent, reliant upon canes and walkers. These negative images do not apply to the vast majority of older people. Therefore, it is customary today to use more nuanced terms, such as older person or elder.
Contemporary research shows aging is not dependant upon a date on a calendar. How well or badly people age reflects their genetics, health and fitness. An active, engaged 81-year-old can be as or more physically and mentally fit than a sedentary 30-year-old who smokes cigarettes and plays video games deep into the night.
Victims of age discrimination receive far less protection under federal law than workers who suffer discrimination based on race, sex, gender, religion, color, and national origin.
Age discrimination is a particular problem in the workplace, where older workers are denied opportunities because they are seen as being resistant to new technology or resistant to change. It is symptomatic of societal attitudes toward aging that victims of age discrimination receive far less protection than workers who suffer discrimination based on race, sex, religion, color and national origin.
Biden may be experiencing symptoms of mental decline. But he has not been diagnosed with dementia, which is a group of symptoms that cause memory loss, difficulty with communicating and impaired reasoning. So where’s the evidence of decline?