When Revera* partnered with Reel Youth** on an intergenerational project, Age Is More, they were trying to combat a form of social prejudice that is cruelly prevalent and widely tolerated: ageism. The 2012 Revera Report on Ageism revealed some disturbing attitudes, such as these key results:
- Six-in-ten (63%) seniors 66 years of age and older say they have been treated unfairly or differently because of their age
- One-in-three (35%) of Canadians admit they have treated someone differently because of their age
- Half (51%) of Canadians agree ageism is the most tolerated social prejudice when compared to gender- or race-based discrimination
- Eight-in ten (79%) Canadians agree that seniors 75 and older are seen as less important and are more often ignored than younger generations
- Seven-in-ten (71%) agree that Canadian society values younger generations more than older generations
- One-in-five (21%) Canadians say older Canadians are a burden on society.
That kind of prejudice leads to some nasty social consequences, including a sense of isolation and irrelevance for people who have years of accumulated expertise and accomplishments to share.
The project was an eye opener for the young filmmakers, as you can see in the Age Is More films from Burlington, Ontario and White Rock, British Columbia. They met people who challenged their stereotypes, such as Bernie Custis (retired school principal and first black quarterback in North American professional football), Dilys Mary Shotton (who still has “riding an elephant” on her bucket list) and Lisa McCue (an artist who set out on a freighter at a time when young girls generally did not do things like that).
My own attitudes toward aging and elderly people have, of course, evolved along with my advancing years. But I cannot help but look at the findings of the Revera survey and listen to all the hand wringing about the “grey tsunami” with dismay. Pitting people against each other by age groupings is small-pie thinking, the kind that decides life is one small pie. If you get a piece, I don’t.
Life does not work that way. The pie gets larger when we are open to the contributions of people of any age, gender, culture, differing abilities, and whatever other designations we use to categorize people. Age Is More was designed to enlarge the pie for the young and old who participated. It gives me hope.
*Revera (whose links are now appearing under Comfort Life) operates retirement and nursing homes across Canada.
**Reel Youth is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that works with youth “to create and distribute engaging films about the issues they care about most.”