People recognise racism and sexism rather easily but not ageism, a term that refers to discrimination on the basis of age.
Like racism and sexism, ageism is wrong and we should do all we can to put an end to it quickly.
Ageism, or age discrimination, happens when someone is treated in an unreasonable manner because of one’s age.
It is hard to say how ageism originated but some point to misplaced theories that state people of old age or seniors — as they are sometimes called — are incapable of performing certain tasks like one who is young.
This might be applicable to tasks that relate to physical and manual work, but not when it calls for mental fitness and intellectual prowess.
Such cerebral activities require experience and generally the older one is, the better one is at excelling at such activities.
For this reason alone, age discrimination must be legislated against. Otherwise, the talents of an ageing population such as that of Malaysia will go to waste.
Many jurisdictions have emplaced laws against age discrimination and we can look to them for guidance.
The United States has its Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which is essentially a labour law that forbids employment discrimination against anyone 40 years or older.
ADEA specifically prohibits discrimination in hiring, promotions, wages, and termination of employment and layoffs, specifications of age preference or limitations, and denial of certain benefits to older employees.
Seniors should be treated as fairly and equally as anyone else. Discriminating people because of their old age is not only harsh but also disrespectful as they have contributed in many ways to the making of this nation.
DR MUZAFFAR SYAH MALLOW
Senior lecturer, Faculty of Syariah and Law, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.