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What Is Ageism?

Different kinds of discrimination or stereotyping exist. Such prejudice may be based on ethnicity, language, income, or even age. Discrimination based on age is referred to as ageism, and anyone is subject to ageism. A set of values and beliefs that place bias against aging is the foundation of ageism.

The term ageism initially referred only to discrimination against older people, those who were considered geriatrics. The word ageism was invented by Robert N. Butler, a gerontologist who witnessed such discrimination against the elderly. The word ageism was derived from other forms of discrimination that was suffixed by an –ism such as racism.

However, ageism covers a broader scope rather than just old age or the elderly. Ageism now encompasses all kinds of discrimination against age. There is a categorization of ageism based on the age of the population targeted for discrimination. Adultism is a bias towards all those who are considered adults. Thus, the prejudice is against children, teenagers, and all other individuals who are not recognized as adults. Jeunism is a form of ageism that prejudices the elderly and favors the young. Ageism can also be seen in gerontocracy, a form of oligarchy that prioritizes the elderly, since such a population is deemed to be wiser, more knowledgeable, and generally more virtuous.

Ageism is also the basis for fears or phobias of aging or certain age groups such as pedophobia, which is fear of young children or the youth in general, and gerontophobia, which is fear of the elderly.

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