Have you ever experienced ageism? It’s not something we often think about, but it’s a very common stereotype.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines ageism as “the stereotypes (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discrimination (how we act) towards others or oneself based on age.” And on this day, August 12th, also known as International Youth Day 2022, we’re joining the masses in speaking out about ageism!
We wanted to learn how to leverage the youth in our lives for a better tomorrow. Thanks to Jenna, a youth on our website, who sent us her perspective and opinions on how ageism has affected her life (see below). She also offers advice from personal experience about what other youth can do to make the world a better place, even from a young age. This is just another reminder that there is so much value in youth sharing their experiences for others to learn from!
“As a youth myself, I think International Youth Day is very important. In my opinion, the most critical point in one’s life is the time of his or her youth. Society should focus on youth because they determine the future.
I think ageism is a very important topic and it’s so prevalent in our society. I have witnessed and experienced ageism against teens by adults. For instance, we are sometimes called “snowflakes” for raising our voices and having opinions on certain subjects. During school, [my classmates and I] were made fun of for our inability to read cursive (even though it wasn’t taught to most of us), but our ability to navigate technology (something we learned in elementary school, so it’s so natural for most of us now!)
I believe ageism is more engrained in society than other forms of discrimination. People don’t even think they’re stereotyping based on age. For example, when it comes to employment, I have found that employers often believe people my age are inexperienced. In my experience, providing the opportunity for young people to gain valuable on-the-job training is often used to justify unjust practices such as low wages (that are sometimes not even livable), or unpaid internships. These types of experiences are inaccessible to young people who have to support themselves but can’t do so when they take on unpaid work. Not to mention, then they try to access social protection which can also be hindered by age-based criteria.
I’ve also really felt the effects of ageism when it comes to being involved in decisions that directly affect young people. We are often viewed as too young, too immature or too apathetic to meaningfully participate in democratic processes, which limit our ability to help make important societal decisions. Ageism is definitely an underlying barrier that people my age face.
However, I truly believe youth can help change the world if we get the chance. Here are my tips on how to help change the world as a young person and to help reduce the ageism stereotype:
- Volunteer or donate to charity. Contact the local volunteer organizations in your area and discover a cause that you feel passionate about to work on!
- Shop carefully. In my opinion, businesses are some of the most important and influential organizations in the world today.
- Become an advocate. Speak up about injustices in the world and get your friends involved, too.
- If you can’t do anything major, focus on the little things. For instance, recycle! Anyone can recycle and these days just about anything can be recycled! From newspapers to plastic to computers and old mobile phones!”
Written by Jenna, a Upopolis member. All views and opinions are her own.
Happy International Youth Day to all the amazing youth we know!