Are we an ageist society?

I have recently found myself getting more aware of my own sensitivities to the subject of ageism. Perhaps it is because I myself am getting older and am learning to embrace what my own ‘mid-life’ years look like.

From the age of forty I felt like I entered into a spin about being ‘middle-aged’. ‘Old’ jokes simply weren’t funny. I removed my age from social media and even took to running away to Italy to celebrate my 50th because I didn’t want all my friends to know how old I was.

Why did I do this? Am I the only one who feels like this? Sadly, I think that these feelings reflect my own insecurities about getting older and I am still working through this. But I have stopped to reflect on my reaction and feel that God has been speaking to me through the process. It’s been a bit of a ‘Kairos’ moment. As a society I’m not sure we honour people well as they get older. We pursue knowledge over wisdom and in doing so forget to honour the wise.

Knowledge versus wisdom

Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement. When we forget to honour ‘wisdom’ we can see a ripple effect on our society which can lead to an incredibly self-centred lifestyle. It celebrates all things young and new and disregards the old. Perhaps this attitude subconsciously influences our own thinking too. Are we so obsessed with our own lives that we forget to honour those who are older and offer that very wisdom?

My concern is that if the church is meant to be a family, what does that family look like if those who are getting on in years (whatever their age) feel disregarded or demeaned simply by the fact that they are getting older. How is that honouring their contribution to ‘the family’ and the wisdom that they bring?

In our pursuit of knowledge, we have devalued the contribution of wisdom. The Bible is full of books and scriptures that elevate wisdom. Take a look at Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes. I love the verse in Job that says “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long-life bring understanding?” (Job 12:12). Both knowledge and wisdom have a role to play in guiding our actions.

I remember when I was younger thinking that when I was a parent, I would be a better parent than others because I thought I knew better. Fortunately, the reality of the experience of being a parent brought those immature, arrogant notions crashing down! The realisation that those who have gone before have practical wisdom to share was like an awakening.

Surely, we have something to learn from countries where extended family units look after their ageing family members and respect and honour their wisdom?

In the Church family we should reflect values that run counter to our culture’s and honour the contribution of those who are older, more experienced and wiser. Perhaps we should take time to reflect on the value we individually and corporately place on age, ageing and honour. How can we make people feel more valued as they get older for the contribution they have to make in helping to guide us into wisdom?

They are not getting in the way; they are helping show us the way.

Thoughts for reflection
What experience have you had of ageism?
The church is supposed to reflect the culture of Heaven, but have we allowed it to reflect the cultural norms of society and be ageist?
What words can you use today to show respect to those who are older than you and show them that you honour them as family?


Alison Davey leads the Children’s Storehouse at Jubilee Church, Solihull, a project that serves the needs of families experiencing financial hardship. She is passionate about all things ‘community’. Alison is married to Rob, and they have two children, both at University. They love holidaying in France and eating a good curry. 

This post first appeared on the Jubilee Church blog.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by guest contributors are those of the author. Although broadly in keeping with the objectives of Jubilee+, they do not necessarily represent those of the Jubilee+ team and directors and/or other contributors to this site.