Wikipedia, the free on-line dictionary, describes ageism as stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes,, norms, and values that justify prejudice and discrimination. We often hold unconscious thoughts and feelings about older people that automatically come into play that devalue a person who we perceive as "over- the- hill" simply because they have wrinkles or are at the age of retirement.
The entertainment industry is on the forefront of helping people rethink their long- held stereotypical thinking about what it is like to be older. They continue to perform (Rod Stewart, Elton John, Jack Nicholson, Mic Jagger, Cher, Barbara Walters) and do a pretty good job of it. Barbara Walters is one of my idols. She has done more to break stereotypical ideas of what is possible for older women than anyone I know.
As an older counseling student, I will be working past the"normal" time of retirement. I also hope to help change people's perceptions of what it means to be old by being an older woman who continues to contribute to society and to grow as a person.
Carol Whiteley is a counselor in training at Argosy University in Atlanta.