What about age

Explanation of terms and problems of discrimination

Age and the process of aging

According to a general definition, the term “old age” refers to the period of life of older people and the result of growing old. It describes the stage of life that begins well before average life expectancy is reached. According to the Council of Europe, those aged 65 and over belong to the group of older people. The UN sets the limit a little lower, namely at 60 years.

It is well known that aging is a natural process that everyone goes through from birth and that ends with death. In common parlance, aging is largely associated with negative changes, with deterioration and degeneration, especially of physical abilities. It is often forgotten that there are strengths associated with aging. Experiences, knowledge acquisition and the subjectively experienced requirements, tasks and possibilities in life give rise to these, such as area-specific experiences, action strategies and knowledge systems.

Even from a biological point of view, the picture of aging as a purely degenerative process is incorrect. Because many age-related changes, such as the graying of the hair, have no influence on vitality or lifespan. However, at some point aging leads to degenerative phases, which are associated with decreased activity and general physical decline. Depending on the cause, these occur at different speeds and can stabilize again. Nevertheless, science assumes that aging is a process that takes place without any external influence and takes place in all individuals of a species according to a certain regularity. It is cellular processes that cause aging. They also define the maximum achievable life span of an organism, which is around 120 years for humans.

Who belongs to the group of older people with special need for protection can hardly be said generally and conclusively. Regional and individual differences are too great. Many factors influence the process of aging, such as living conditions or the health and social disposition of the individual. Therefore, when deciding on protective measures, you should always reconsider what discriminatory consequences they can have.

Classic protective measures for old age and discrimination problems

The state financial provision for old age as well as the legal stipulation of the exit from the working life are protective measures which numerous states have introduced for people of old age in the course of the 20th century. Other forms of insurance have been created to cover the consequences and risks of aging and to ensure that older people have access to certain benefits. In some countries, for example, the higher health costs to be expected for older people are covered by means of cross-generational insurance models. More recent challenges for the welfare state are mainly protective measures in the area of ​​care or the question of which measures must be taken so that old people can lead a self-determined life. In order to guarantee the elderly a dignified life, they must be protected from violence, abuse and loneliness.

Many of the classic protective measures in old age are aimed at very old and elderly people. For many retirees around the age of 65, the protective measures may still be of little meaning because they are mentally and physically healthy. Protective measures can then sometimes have a restrictive effect, sometimes even on people who are even younger. A discriminatory consequence of the statutory retirement age can be that already 50-year-olds are excluded from further training offers or ignored when looking for a job or when getting promotions. Particularly problematic are measures that tie in with generalizations and prejudices about skills that are supposed to no longer exist (e.g. "from the age of 70 the ability to drive responsibly is lost").


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