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Ageism Unmasked

Exploring Age Bias and How to End It

Ageism Unmasked Buy Now
Format Hardcover Ebook Audiobook
ISBN 978-1-58642-322-3 978-1-58642-323-0 978-1-58642-336-0
Published Mar 1, 2022
Imprint Steerforth Press
Category Cultural Destinations Family Love & Relationships More Museums... Museums

Why do we still tolerate stereotypes and discrimination based on age?

This bold account of the history and present-day realities of ageism by a nationally recognized gerontologist and speaker uncovers ageism’s roots, impact, and how each of us can create a new reality of elderhood.

Ageism Unmasked shifts the lens, enabling us to see that we tolerate, and sometimes actively promote, attitudes and behaviors toward differently aged people that we would reject and condemn if applied to any other group. It peels back the layers to expose how cultural norms and unconscious prejudices have seeped into our lives, silently shaping our treatment of others based on their age and our own misconceptions about aging—and about ourselves.

Offering an all-inclusive approach, Dr. Tracey Gendron reveals the biases behind our false understanding of aging, sharing powerful opportunities for personal growth along with strategies to help create an anti-ageist society.

Ageism Unmasked will help readers let go of our desperate need to stay young… exposing how we personally, systematically, structurally, and institutionally stigmatize being old.

Ageism Unmasked will help readers appreciate both the challenges and opportunities of how we all age… showing how ageism is prejudice towards both younger and older people.

Ageism Unmasked will help readers reset our expectations for getting old… providing the tools to anticipate and experience elderhood as a time of renewed meaning and purpose, empowering each of us to create our own definition of successful aging.

Ageism Unmasked continues Dr. Gendron’s transformative work inspiring people of all ages to embrace aging as our universal and lifelong process of developing over time — biologically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually.


The strategies Gendron proposes to disrupt age bias and embrace elderhood are both pragmatic and refreshing."

--Jeanette Leardi, Next Avenue

While her prose is crisp, declarative, and scholarly, it is also accessible and accented with personality and wit; the inclusion of her own personal reflections about aging add a great amount of relatability and narrative connection. Readers concerned with aging will find Gendron’s discussion on the expectations of getting older, as well as the challenges many face with aging, refreshingly helpful. Also crucial is the author’s optimistic perspective about appreciating and embracing the aging process, which can promote better mental health, opportunities for productivity, personal development, and overall happiness."

-- Kirkus Reviews

...a vivid and thoughtful account of human ageing for the general reader, encompassing the history of ageist biases and describing the undeniable damage they inflict – along with suggestions for uprooting them."

--South China Morning Post

Both scholarly and well written, the book embellishes its point with the expected quotient of wisdom.”

--Generations Beat Online


Everything you know about aging is wrong. It’s not your fault. Everything you have been taught about aging is wrong. From a young age, our developing brains are flooded with images, songs, and stories that stoke fears of being old. Our beloved bedtime stories are filled with older characters portrayed as ugly, scary, silly or feeble. As we grow up, we hear our parents speak disparagingly about feeling old and watch as they make concerted efforts to act young to stay relevant. In elementary school, we blindly participate in activities like the widespread practice of celebrating the 100th day of school with a “dress like a 100-year-old day” activity that creates caricatures of old people. As teens, we are utterly unaware that our favorite songs teem with ageist lyrics. In early adulthood, we are the primary targets of marketing for anti-aging cosmetics and products and are told that it is never too soon to fight aging.

Messages suggesting that healthy aging means being active, independent and physically and cognitively robust wash over us. We equate any amount of dependence as failure. Our expectations are unrealistic. As mortal beings, we eventually and inevitably experience physical decline. The truth is that we are never independent but always interdependent. Cultural messaging presents caregiving as a burden that leads to burnout rather than a natural and normal part of human relationships. The beauty and reciprocity inherent in providing and receiving care get lost.

Even the most well-intentioned efforts to educate people about aging are often misleading and damaging. Old age simulation suits that mimic aspects of aging have been created to help build empathy for old people. As if a suit can give us any meaningful insight into what it is like to be any given older person. As if older people are a monolithic group where everyone ages in a predictable pattern.

Attempts to be anti-ageist fall into perilous traps that fuel, rather than dismantle, ageism. We throw around terms like “ageless,” “feel young,” “you’re only as old as you feel,” and “never get old” as anti-ageist strategies. We fail to see these sentiments are themselves ageist. Using the term ageless denies age. It screams out, “I don’t see age.” But we need to see age. It is a vital part of our human identity, and of the human condition. Hard earned life lessons and experience enable us to become fully realized. They should not just be recognized, but venerated. Using strategies that downplay or ignore the aging process to fight ageism is like putting out a fire with an extinguisher filled with kerosene.

This book will help you recognize how ageism and ableism are endemic in our culture, and how they have become ingrained in your thinking. Understanding the history of ageism will help you to develop the knowledge, skills and strategies necessary to disrupt ageism and ableism within yourself and to help others do the same. We can’t do better until we know better. It’s time for us to grow up, let go of our desperate need to stay young and embrace that we age and get old.

About the Author

Tracey Gendron

With over 25 years of experience as a grant-funded researcher and a nationally recognized speaker, Dr. Tracey Gendron has spoken about ageism in forums across America and has also appeared on numerous podcasts and video productions, particularly highlighting those understudied and underrepresented groups at increased risk of adverse health outcomes based on discrimination. Dr. Gendron has a master’s degree in Gerontology, a master’s degree in Psychology, and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology. She serves as Chair for the VCU Department of Gerontology and Executive Director of the Virginia Center on Aging. Dr. Gendron may be reached at

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