Since 1991, the International Day of Older Persons is being observed annually on 1 October under the auspices of the United Nations. The Day has a different theme every year and the theme for 2016 was “Take a Stand Against Ageism”. Ageism is defined as stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. Ageism may not be a very commonly used word, but as a practice it is already widespread. Older people are considered unsuitable for jobs, regarded unfit for insurance, given lesser importance in society, and discriminated against in this rapidly changing world.

Even climate change seems to be working against older people. Rising temperatures, increasing humidity, deteriorating air quality, are some of the causes that are adding to the woes of older people. They are now more susceptible to heat stroke, dehydration, arthritis, asthma and many other diseases. Recent data on the correlation between climate indices and deaths due to these causes shows that it is much higher for older persons than for younger persons.

The reason for such a statistical bias in climate-related happenings lies in ageism. Because by nature ageism results in marginalizing older people and keeping them out of the mainstream community life. This happens particularly when old people are an isolated part of huge families or when they live on their own in urban residential complexes. For example, on an exceptionally hot weekend, the younger generation may go to refresh themselves on beaches or mountain resorts, or plunge into swimming pools, while the old are left behind to fend for themselves. Many times they may not even be aware that there was an heat wave in their region. Even if they were, they may not know how to cope with it.

On the other hand, there are many older people who do not believe in climate change and do not care about it. They have seen it all in their lifetime, they say. They recall having experienced worse situations and the future scenarios painted by climate change scientists do not scare them.

Either way, there is only one solution to the problem and that is: As you grow older, you must try to be wiser! Then you can defy ageism and enjoy the pleasure of living your own life on your own terms!

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