For those who don’t know, ageism is the term given to discriminatory tendencies based on the age of individuals or certain groups. Many people are not aware that there can be any such thing as prejudice based on the age of a person, as we look at these phenomena related to major issues like gender, race, faith or ethnicity. However, this is a reality. In fact, some states in America have labeled ageism as one major cause of hate crime. Since the 1960s, laws have been passed in America and many other countries that cater to this social trend.


It would not be wrong to call ageism a social trend. Different societies have biases and preferences towards different age groups. Mostly, adults are seen as more sensible, sane and mature as compared to the young generation; thus, the governing responsibilities lie in the hands of the senior citizens. Youths’ ideas may be heard, but the elderly make the ultimate decisions. This behavior can be termed as “Adultism”, “adult centrism”, “Adultocracy” or “gerontocracy”. On the other hand, when it comes to recruitments, young blood is searched (then again, the boss will always be some who is older!). This is also true for trades such as entertainment and performing arts. Who wants to see old people in movies or commercials?


The person most responsible for the awareness of ageism was none other than Dr. Robert Neil Butler. He came up with this term in 1968. He was a physician, gerontologist and physiatrist who died summer of last year. Dr. Butler was introduced with discrimination based on age in his medical school, where his teachers would pour contempt on the older patients. As his specialty as a gerontologist suggests, his definition of ageism largely circles around bias and prejudice against the old age group. Since then, Dr. Butler has been involved in research projects and has been the founder or associate of many organizations and bodies that deal with diseases that affect old people (for example, Alzheimer’s).


Along with this, Robert Neil Butler is also a prolific writer, honored with the Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction in 1976. In addition, he has written hundreds of scholarly articles and journals. For his work for the aging people, he received honorary degrees and accolades from institutions around the globe, and was featured in the 2009 documentary film “I remember better when I paint.”