Bias of Aging

I dove into my list of Blog topics I keep adding to for this week’s Blog. I came across the topics of ageism, age discrimination, and implicit bias, which led me to an Implicit Association Test online at Harvard University.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ll paraphrase one of the warnings: If you don’t like bad news, please don’t take the test. I decided I was strong enough to handle the truth—if it was the truth.

There was then a disclaimer that the results were just that, results, and didn’t certify anything.

I decided to proceed anyway, with my fingers crossed.

I won’t go into the intricacies of the test but skip to the results.

First, I self-proclaimed that I like both young and old people equally.  It was tough to answer such a question as “it depends,” but that wasn’t an option.

The results, in short, indicated a significant bias favouring young people.

I was surprised as I didn’t think of myself that way.

I could go into all the defence mechanisms I immediately started to draw on, such as the test structure using solely positive and negative words combined with pictures of old and young people with no context.

Instead, I spent time reflecting on unconscious bias. This concept is hard to self-identify. But with some further reading I saw some helpful identification of possible starting points.

One area I have previously found myself changing is the term ‘growing old.’ I am trying to train myself to think of the more accurate term of ‘growing,’ kicking the baggage of the preconceived notions related to ‘old’ to the curb.

Another is my past automatic acceptance of the terms ‘tidal wave’ or ‘tsunami’ to refer to the social implications of the growing number of folks in an older age group. We are living longer and healthier lives. This gives society more time to consider our life experiences.

It seems a natural struggle for me to make this transition. I know many cultures worldwide are already there, waiting for me to catch up. It is captured in their attitudes towards their elders – a term of respect.

Please give this a bit of a think. Are you able to identify bias in news stories? What about your words and attitudes toward specific age groups, not just an older group? Can you see unconscious bias in others? What about you?

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.

Photo by Victoriano Izquierdo on Unsplash

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And my thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association for making this Blog possible.

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