Daniela Silcock is an Age Allies volunteer. Her day job as Head of Policy Research with the Pensions Policy Institute gives her a very interesting perspective on the subject of ageism. She has kindly written the following post for the Age Allies blog…
People often put off saving in a private pension until the age of 40 or above, though by this time people generally find it difficult to save enough to provide themselves with a comfortable income in retirement. There are many explanations for behaviour which may seem illogical, for example: low levels of financial capability, lack of affordability, or competing financial priorities.
There is also an interesting psychological element which has implications not only for income levels but for social attitudes towards older people: younger people are more likely to view their future self as a stranger with whom they have no emotional or physical connection.
This disconnect can be routed to several causes including:
- People generally find it hard to plan more than five or ten years into the future,
- One’s older self is often perceived as looking different to one’s younger self and therefore being a different person
- Fear of the potentially negative experience of being old can lead people to disassociate with that part of themselves. (Young adults are far more likely than adults in their 30s, 40s and 50s to associate negative words such as “lonely”, “ill”, and “poor” with the experience of being old.)
This disassociation between people and their older selves goes some way to explaining the prevalence of ageism within society, particularly in light of the fact that some of the disconnect arises from fear of older age. However, there are methods of helping people to associate more closely with their future selves which have been shown to have an impact on pension saving behaviour and may also be relevant in the field of anti-ageism.
Digitally “ageing” people’s faces or using makeup to show them what they may look like 20, 30, or 40 years in the future is highly effective, as is discussing what people want their older age to look like or having people write letters to their future self. These activities are associated with people viewing their own older age more positively and making better decisions about planning for the future. There are obvious correlations between how people view their older selves and how they view other older people. If people are less apprehensive and disassociated from their future selves, they should be better able to explore and change attitudes they have about older people more generally.
Thanks Daniela, you really got me thinking. It seems to me that Ageism is the only prejudice where we discriminate against that which we hope to be and which we will, barring accident or illness, become.
It is so deeply embedded in society that we are mostly unaware of it. Even older people themselves buy into it! It is in our language, our expectations and our assumptions.
The Age Allies Programme is delivering free half day workshops to organisations and businesses across London. For more information please contact Richard Norman. Daniela will be writing a longer piece for the latest edition of Age UK London’s quarterly magazine London Age. To receive your copy please contact George Harvey.