Ageism is a difficult topic for me. It is something I've experienced throughout my life, and something I suffer from to this day. I won't go into a personal rant about my experiences with ageism, but I do feel that I should try to say something about it that may help others understand why it's a problem. I'm sure the concept of suffering simply because of one's age sounds absurd to several noders, but I ask that you give it some careful thought. Imagine, for example, having gender dysphoria - being born with the body of a man and the mind of a woman, or vice versa. This is (according to what I've read and what I imagine) a horrible thing to suffer through, but in this case, you can eventually become the person you'd like to be through the marvels of medical science. Now imagine having a sophisticated, mature mind, but being stuck in the body of an adolescent. For the sake of easy reference, we'll call this 'age dysphoria'. Admittedly, age dysphoria corrects itself later on in life when age becomes less important, but for the time being, you cannot (permanently) alter your mental or physical state (not in a positive way, anyway)¹. This can lead to a huge variety of problems.

Relationships are impacted worst. From simple friendships to romances, people in this situation will have trouble relating to peers of the same chronological age², and will be looked down on by older peers simply because of age bias. This can make it incredibly difficult to lead any life but that of a hermit. The inconsistent placement system within some schools³ does not help, either. In elementary school, grade placement may be split between two consecutive age groups, which allows students to interact with each other and disregard the age barrier. This freedom, so to speak, is torn away once students enter secondary education, where grade placement is strictly age-based and mixed classes are unheard of. The rarity of an individual with age dysphoria having healthy relationships often leads to further emotional problems, including depression, insecurity, self-hatred, and hatred of society in general.

One especially problematic aspect of ageism is that it isn't just incarnated in age-biased slander. Society's widespread acceptance of grouping by means of chronological age contributes to the problem. It's an easy statistic to obtain, but given careful consideration, its accuracy is somewhat atone to assigning people rights based on a random number drawn from a hat*. As mentioned before, this is particularly problematic in the school system, especially in secondary education. Class placements are incredibly strict, and any individual who hopes to achieve placement in a higher grade (thereby being surrounded by peers who are more likely to understand him or her) must first go through a tremendous amount of work, which creates problems of it own - the amount of time spent on school and homework in this situation leaves little room for social interaction of any sort.

Perhaps the worst aspect of ageism is that those who are against it have little to support their cause. As inaccurate as society's chronological grouping system is, it is satisfactory to most. The sad truth is that most adolescents are quick to abuse any privileges given to them, and because the modern world operates on decisions being made quickly rather than making sure they are collectively acceptable, rights have to be designated on a general basis. Rather than a classic case of a minority ruining things for the majority, in this case, the majority is ruining things for a minority. If most adolescents abuse their rights, all adolescents are given fewer rights. As freeborn said, ageism effects the other end of the spectrum as well, but as I have no experience in that, I won't attempt to write about it.

So, what can be done about ageism? Unfortunately, a widespread removal of ageism isn't within the foreseeable future, but that doesn't mean the problem must go unnoticed. The most important thing at this point is to remember not to be judgemental.

¹ I am not suggesting that 'age dysphoria' is worse than gender dysphoria. Having always been happy with my gender (well, for the most part, anyway - some of the things the general male population do make me ashamed of being a guy, although it's never bothered me much - but I digress), I can't claim to understand the pain associated with gender dysphoria, nor would I want to offend anyone by attempting to do so.

² In my opinion, there are two types of age. Chronological age, which embodies the physical aspects of age and is based on the date of birth, and mental age, which is based on a person's maturity, intelligence and wisdom, and can't truly be measured numerically.

³ This is based on my local school system - I'm not sure how these things are implemented in other areas. Also, where I live, we don't have middle school, so I didn't include it in my reference.

* Okay, so that's a bit of an exaggeration.