Ageism Doesn't Age Well, but Wisdom Does

Apr 24 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

I was at a supermarket on Thursday morning when I had to stand in a line to pay for the snacks I had grabbed from the shelves. Close to the front were two senior men. They ran into a man who was not wearing a face mask.

They politely asked him to mask up, but the man refused, rather disrespectfully, raising his voice to the point everyone at the store could hear him. The men pleaded with him to cover his mouth and nose for everyone's protection from the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“COVID-19 is the disease of the old; since everybody else is wearing one, do not worry,” he retorted.

A heated quarrel broke out where almost everyone in the queue kept telling him their piece of mind. Someone in the line said to him that as an obese person, he is at more risk of dying of Coronavirus complications. Others told him he is suicidal.

Throughout all of these, he was nonchalant. Until, that is, someone told him that he is a “senior.” He was furious afterward. He was up to prove to us all that he was young.

I was baffled that out of the many insulting words thrown at him, what made the man feel punched in the kidney was the statement about his age. Words suddenly became inadequate to express himself. I left the store shortly after.

Unfortunately, this is how many people feel about age – as an object of shame rather than a blessing. It is not unheard of for people to lie about their age, even to health professionals. In the age of consumerism and body image, youthfulness has further come to be seen as a source of obsession. Those who have passed it want to come back while the young are determined to remain there for life.

But there is much to be grateful for as we add more years to our lives. The sooner we realise that we are just in a season of life that is continuously changing, the more we can focus on the now. Our age is just a demonstration of experiences, an asset we all should treasure. What should be our focus is trying our best to make the right use of our time on Earth.

Adding years to our lives does not mean becoming less valuable. Our years are a means of new opportunities, pleasant memories to build on, and challenges to overcome. The resentment of aging is more psychological than physical as it reminds people what they have wasted. It is not the end of joy and strength but the epitome of it.

It is critical to develop the habit of dwelling in the present, embracing each season of age for what it is and what it has to offer without resenting the years we have been graced with. No one should lose sight that age is meant to change annually, bringing new experiences. Being conditioned to remain young forever will make us lose focus in life. The less people stress over their age, the more they can easily discover what is worthwhile.

“Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth,” as Max Ehrmann wrote in his poem, “Desiderata.”

Going forward, there will be more and more older people around the world than at any time before, thanks to lower fertility rates and modern medicine. By 2050, the population of the world aged 60 years or older is expected to double from the current number to over two billion, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Whether we like it or not, we are all growing older as each day passes. There is no getting away from that. If our negative attitudes towards getting older persist, we risk wasting time hanging in the past and missing what is ahead. Our ageism needs to give way to the realisation that with more years behind us, we accumulate more wisdom - at least if we choose to do as such.

PUBLISHED ON Apr 24,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1095]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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