Upon kicking off her presidential campaign this week, Nikki Haley said politicians 75 years of age or older should be subject to mental competency tests. It was a cheap political shot at President Biden and her rival in the primaries, Donald Trump. But it was more than that. Haley’s statement is blatantly ageist. Of course, of all the -isms (racism, sexism, able-ism, classism, etc.), the targeting of older people remains one of the most socially acceptable – probably leading Haley to believe that her jab at senior politicians was safe. That doesn’t make it any less offensive.
Despite their enormous contributions to our country, seniors are continually devalued as members of society. When someone calls another person “old,” it’s understood as an insult, not a sign of respect. “In our society, older people too often are considered to be absent and invisible,” says our senior policy expert, Anne Montgomery.