An Unexpected Intersection of Ageism and Ableism

18 Sep
From Oxford Languages:
ageism /ˈājˌizəm/
prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age.
ableism /ˈābəˌlizəm/
discrimination in favor of able-bodied people.

Ageism and ableism go hand-in-hand; the natural aging process is indicative of lessening capabilities and deteriorating health. Our elderly live with this two-fold discrimination day in and day out.

But there’s an entirely different intersection between ageism and ableism that you might find surprising.

The best way I can describe it is to simply share a brief chat I had yesterday.

I was venting a little to an acquaintance about my exhaustingly busy week, with my business plus my job plus my community obligations.

He, twenty years my senior, just said, “Oh you’re young. You can handle all that.”

He meant no harm. In fact, he was trying to be encouraging, in his way. But I found his comment to be incredibly irksome.

It imposed upon me the expectation of health and ability, due to my age (or more likely, the age I appear to be).

It was dismissive of the chronic conditions that make everything especially challenging (fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome).

It also kind of made me feel pressured to “pass” as able-bodied. To live with the precise vigor expected of me giving the way I look.

It also made me sad, being reminded of what I “should” be able to do with ease–given my appearance–that I can’t.

No, I didn’t go home and cry. I didn’t yell at the guy, either. I did comment, “That’s actually dismissive of what I may be going through. I do have some chronic health issues that do make things more difficult for me.”

I said this because I had that moment to teach and remind someone that invisible illnesses are real, that you can’t always tell by the outside what struggles lie just beneath.

Similarly, never devalue or dismiss struggles someone discloses because you think they’re too young for it to be real. I’ll show you my knuckles if you do! (the osteoarthritis bone spurs and cysts, that is)



2 thoughts on “An Unexpected Intersection of Ageism and Ableism

  1. So very true! I deal with vestibular migraines which includes intense vertigo along with the migraine – and several other challenges that go a long with it- and people say- oh I have bad Headaches too. Some days I just smile and nod and other times I try my best to give some education. But most days I’m so run down by all the symptoms I don’t have the energy to fight with them. Just so you know- I see you, I hear you, and you are amazing just the way you are…. thank you for this- amazing as always!❤️

    • Thanks, Mary. YOU’RE amazing as always!

      And oh gosh, yeah, I can’t stand it when people are like I’m _______ too. I mean, it’s not a competition, but can I please just have my little moment to disclose about my thing?

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