One of the most dangerous things in society is people in power who are not aware of their own unconscious bias, the Duke of Sussex said in conversation with Patrick Hutchison, the Black Lives matter activist who was photographed carrying an injured white protester away from danger at a protest in June. The Duke said he knew nothing about it until he learnt to “live in my wife’s shoes.” It took many years to realise it existed, but added, ‘ignorance is no longer an excuse.”
Substitute ‘racism’ with ‘ageism’ and you’re describing a prejudice directed at older people (and even the concept of old age itself) that damages the lives of the over 50s in multiple ways, from getting promotion at work or a new job to obtaining medical treatment. Older people themselves can suffer from it: absorbed at an early age and reinforced by unconscious bias over a life time, internalised ageism leads to ill health in old age and even early death. A study by Yale University found that the cost of medical treatment for a broad range of health conditions caused by ageism during one year in the United States amounted to more than $63 billion. Professor Becky Levy, who led the study, said she did it to highlight ageism in the hope that positive action would be taken to tackle it seeing the cost to the nation.
The challenge is that as the Duke found with racism, it’s hidden in our subconscious, even from ourselves. Some phrases reveal it, such as ‘what do you expect at my age’, being ‘over the hill,’ and ‘they’ve had their time.’ Although it’s invisible ageism is very powerful, and the effects are evident. An example is concerns voiced now about young persons’ prospects in a post Covid economy, yet a report by the Telegraph shows that it is the 50-pluses who will take the biggest financial blows, taking longer to find work and having to accept much lower salaries (if) when they do. ‘Is it right to sacrifice the young to save the elderly?’ is a question heard in many circles.
Going to ‘act as seniors’, to protect the young.
In my book, ‘What’s Age Got To Do With It?’ I show from the Scriptures how God designed old age on purpose. Older people are meant to have a senior role in society, telling out about God’s goodness and benefiting younger generations with their wisdom and wider perspective.
Patrick Hutchison said that Mr Hutchinson said he and his friends had gone to the protest to act as “senior citizens” to “oversee things” and “make sure those young protesters wouldn’t do anything they’d regret later on”.
“We were pleased we’d been able to avert some potential serious situation, I would do it for anybody, I would do it time and time again, it’s not something you think about,” he added.: “It’s not black versus white, it’s everyone versus the racists.’
At the end of the telephone call with the Duke of Sussex, Patrick sent his regards to Meghan and “blessings” to Archie.
We need more Patrick Hutchison’s. He and the three friends who went with him to the protest for the same reasons have now formed a new collective called United to Change and Inspire (UTCAI) to fight racial inequality on a national scale. We need to pray for their work, and for organisations fighting ageism in the UK today.