Opinion / Politics / Press Releases

The Invisible Man [and Woman], a Tale of Ageism in America

ageism senior man woman AmericaSchools, movies and TV need to show kids that age-based prejudice is cruel, not cool

WASHINGTON, DC – You might recall the films, The Invisible Man, starring Claude Rains, and The Invisible Woman, starring Virginia Bruce. These works of fiction entertained audiences in the 1940s. But, it’s the 21st Century and it turns out invisible people really exist.

“They live among us in the guise of senior citizens,” according to Dan Weber, president of AMAC, a powerful senior advocacy organization.

San Francisco-based psychologist and psychotherapist Tamara McClintock Greenberg put it this way in an article for Psychology Today: “Why people are increasingly treated as if they’re invisible as they age (more prevalent it seems, for women) is curious, though perhaps not surprising. We live in a youth-fixated culture where people are afraid to age and to be vulnerable to growing older; where ideals about attractiveness are oriented around those with young, healthy bodies.”

Groups such as AMAC, the Association of Mature American Citizens, exist and thrive, in part, because the fast growing population of senior citizens in the U.S. is determined to be seen and heard, says Weber.  “We are alive and well and, particularly when it comes to ageism, we are not going to take it anymore.”

Weber is not alone in his quest to eradicate the scourge of ageism in America.  Author Ashton Applewhite, for example, has devoted herself to what might be called a movement to exposing and eliminating discrimination based on age.  Among other things, she created a Web site, Old School, to be an ageism research resource.

“The messages are everywhere that old is not as good as young.  We are ageist any time we make an assumption about a person or a group of people on the basis of how old they appear to be.  Ageism has not been challenged in the culture at large,” says Applewhite.  And, according to her, that is as unacceptable as racism, sexism and any other form of discrimination.

You might say that Applewhite is on a crusade and her focus is on the youngest members of society because research shows that prejudices such as ageism are formed early in life.  And, her Old School Web site is designed to provide teachers with anti-ageism tools and aids allow them to create a positive view of growing old.

Dr. John C. Cavanaugh, a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, also believes that youngsters need to be provided with a more affirmative attitude toward the elderly early on in the classroom.  “Young people have a skewed view or even a blank spot when it comes to this population. From pre-school to high school, a lot of students don’t get any exposure to issues of aging,”

AMAC’s Weber is in full agreement with Applewhite and Cavanaugh that we need to teach our kids to not only respect their elders but to also see them as productive members of society with something to contribute.  But, he says that Hollywood has a lot to answer for when it comes to promoting a dismissive attitude toward older Americans.

And he cites a study conducted by Humana and the University of Southern California that concluded Hollywood ridicules seniors in the movies.

Films have an impact on how our children view life, in general, Weber points out.  “Thus, the negative portrayal of ageing in the movies and on TV has the insidious effect of making discrimination based on age not so cruel, but rather ‘cool’ in the minds of youngsters.”


The 1.7 million member Association of Mature American Citizens [AMAC] [https://www.amac.us] with 1.7 million members, is a vibrant, vital senior advocacy organization that takes its marching orders from its members.  We act and speak on their behalf, protecting their interests and offering a practical insight on how to best solve the problems they face today.  Live long and make a difference by joining us today at https://amac.us/join-amac.

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter
and Download the AMAC News App

Sign Up Today Download

If You Enjoy Articles Like This - Subscribe to the AMAC Daily Newsletter!

Notify of
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

It is so ironic, our generation, the “Baby Boomers” said back in the sixties, don’t trust anyone over 30, and now look at us, we are in our sixties and seventies.

robert hawkins
3 years ago

i have been told the correct name for that is called the arc of irrelevance

3 years ago

It is true. The older I become, the more invisible I become. I look around and see younger people barely able to tolerate those who are elderly. Our golden years should afford a little respect, but I’m not seeing much of it. It’s sad to see how far away from family values and morals we have gone.

3 years ago

When I was in my teens, I loved and respected the older generation. My parents taught me that. I remember talking to one elderly gentleman and he told me about how he went from the horse and buggy days to seeing a man sent to the moon. To this day I still remember him. The young ones can learn so much from us older people if they care to have open ears and a little respect.

Clark Kent
3 years ago
Reply to  Lowlyworm

And vice versa; the older people can learn so much from younger people if they care to have open ears (and minds) and a little respect. Respect is EARNED, not doled out due to age.

3 years ago

Laughing. 10 years ago, when I was in my 70’s, a young woman told me she wasn’t afraid of dying, she was afraid of getting old. I laughed and told her I was old, perfectly healthy, living an active wonderful life, and now that I’m 80, I’m still healthy, living an active wonderful life. Think positive. It certainly works for me.

3 years ago

Thank you for this article. To me, the problem can be based on manners all around. The lack of manners, in general, is so very different, now. Solution: teach manners as I was taught years ago. Yes, even in schools that dished out a repercussion if we did not learn to behave appropriately. Simply put, we were to be polite and behave with respect. Simple. And, if we were not polite and did not respect someone, the norms of society let us know that we were not a person to be respected.

3 years ago
Reply to  Gail

Could not agree with you more.

3 years ago
Reply to  Gail

Good comment Gail. I agree we all need to have good manners. Something else us seniors need to remember is to behave and dress in a manner that deserves respect. I see people out in town in grocery stores wearing old sloppy sweats and tee shirts and flip flops. That doesn`t encourage respect.

Clark Kent
3 years ago
Reply to  Jerry

Respect is EARNED. It has nothing to do with your attire, length of your hair, the car you drive, etc. Nice try; no cigar.

Lucky in Florida
3 years ago

We, the maturing, are the last group I would have expected to see whining about being disrespected or ignored by society because of our membership in a group. It scoffs at the whole notion of “mature”, which means we have learned to rise above the isms gracefully. Are we going to identify our own list of trigger words and insist they be banned? Shall we insist Peter Pan movies be confiscated it because it glorifies “forever young”? Movies and tv have always portrayed over thirty as “out of it”.
I enjoy membership in the mature group , among others, but don’t feel defined by it. It’s not worth my increasingly valuable time to dwell on it.

3 years ago

I don’t think people are dwelling in it. Have you seen the online opinions of many liberal young people? Some even want to allow euthanasia at a certain age! They say seniors are taking up space and even though they worked all their lives for what they have, some young people don’t want them in their world…but they want their stuff. Property, money, etc. Many would just as soon they all dropped dead. They don’t want to look at them. Sad that parents don’t take their kids to visit senior care facilities anymore. Like the first commenter said, we all want to love and be loved. If these younger folks don’t start thinking ahead, they’re going to make a bed they won’t want to sleep in.

Greg in the 80”s
3 years ago

As we age, we lose many of the abilities we once had, both physical and mental. A low price to pay for the wisdom that can be increased with life experiences. No one, that I know, has lost the ability to Love and the desire to be loved. Keep on spreading wisdom and love and counteract the characteristics of ageism.

3 years ago

Good comment Greg, I agree.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x