Here are a dozen thought-starters to help you begin what will be a very profitable process personally, as well as professionally. Think about these issues and, over time, it will reduce negative attitudes against young and old alike.
1. Do you believe that you're an ageist?
If you take umbrage at the very suggestion, perhaps you protest a bit too much. Take a closer look at your most cherished and certain beliefs about aging, and see if there's any prejudice to be found.
2. Are you afraid of aging?
It's a natural fear, particularly in our youth-worshipping culture. But if you don't face down that fear, you're setting yourself up for a horrendous fall if you're lucky enough to grow old one day. In the meantime, your fear will color your advertising and marcom decisions, much to your company's detriment.
3. Have you made an effort to learn about key aspects of aging?
The more realistically informed you are about aging and what to expect, the better you'll be able to evaluate and resist the inaccurate and negative stereotypes so often associated with the aging process. Strive to understand the differences between what's relevant in aging and what isn't, and you'll be on the path to enlightenment.
4. Do you harbor misinformation and erroneous beliefs about aging?
Once you understand the important aspects of aging, do you use facts to actively challenge the misconceptions and myths that can distort your thinking and behavior? Be sure to analyze your "positive" prejudices as well as your negative ones.
5. Do you believe in the stereotypes of aging?
To begin to answer this, examine the language you use when talking about aging, then go from there.
6. Do you appreciate the difference between ageism and discrimination?
You may never have done a single discriminatory thing to any older adult, yet still be an ageist at heart. In fact, some very well-meaning people overcompensate.
7. Have you carefully listened to how ageism can affect Boomers?
You can do this informally by speaking with them one on one, or you can do it more formally in a series of focus groups. Whatever you choose, there's no substitute for going directly to the source.
8. Have you monitored advertising, marcom and the media, observing how they reflect aspects of aging and ageism?
Carefully considering the negative ways in which older adults are portrayed in marcom, ads, commercials, films and television is crucial to understanding and overcoming ageism.
9. Have you considered advocating against ageism?
Obviously, sponsoring an initiative that champions the fight against ageism can do wonders for your company's image. But on a personal level, when someone you know uses ageist language or images, do you tactfully advise them to reconsider their attitude? Face it, even innocent jokes help keep ageism alive.
10. Are you careful about your own language and behavior toward older adults?
No matter how loving and generous you may be, nobody's perfect. A little self-examination just might prove profitable.
11. Do you talk openly about aging issues and ageism with your staff?
Hidden ageism that's never spoken about can be even more destructive than the overt kind, because it makes it easier for people to wallow in ignorance. A powerful way to fight ageism is to showcase people who don't fit any stereotypes in your advertising and marcom.
12. Can you build intergenerational bridges to promote better mutual understanding?
Ageism thrives in the Petri dish of ignorance. However, when all generations understand that they're interconnected throughout their lifespan, they'll begin to appreciate the power they have to affect each other's well-being.