The Vancouver Sun published a letter from on April 24, 2013 that has caught my eye –

Ms. Zimmerman’s letter and concerns were motivated by a conversation with her financial advisor initiated at the request of his supervisor.  The conversation was about a suggestion for Ms. Zimmerman to appoint a power of attorney (POA) for property, given her age (an octogenarian).

Point 2 of 3 is addressing these specific sections of the Vancouver Sun letter:

Here is a headline from the financial section of a Canadian newspaper: “Plan your finances now while you still can.” Another knockout is a current TV ad telling us, “The average Canadian will spend their last 10 years of life in sickness.”

….and later in the letter ….

This view of aging as a calamity establishes what I term a “culture of loss,” the attitudes generated by these negative perspectives. This culture produces common beliefs that aging means decline, dependence and dementia, or at best isolation and depression. Thus older people and aging boomers feel threatened and fearful, as indeed do younger people by this emphasis on deterioration.

….and further on in the letter ….

The email my financial adviser received, though well-intentioned, was nevertheless ageism pure and simple, probably based on the culture of loss which the inquirer internalized.

My comment for point #2:

  1. 2.      Were the actions of the advisor or the firm ageist?

Some background on ageism:

Ageism is a serious issue in our society.  It is about stereotyping aging and older people.  It needs to be tackled in many areas including advertising, human resource management, and in main stream media.  I also believe that it will increasingly be identified and objected to by Canadians, especially as the size of the aging population continues to grow.  Canadians will not be tolerant of negative images and descriptions about aging.

 One of the biggest risks of is that it may be internalized by some older people, resulting in their willingness to accept these stereotypes and not engage as deeply with society as they could.  This would mean that the older person not only misses out on a higher quality of life due to their disengagement from family, activities, community groups and so on, but we also miss out on their contributions to society.  I fully support any identification of ageist activities and messages.

But were the firm or advisor ageist?

Much of the piece written by Ms. Zimmerman highlights the issues of ageism.  As mentioned above, I agree with the importance of this issue.  However, I do not agree that the topic of inquiry (a power of attorney) by the financial advisor was ageist, although the approach or conduct of the financial advisor may have been ageist.  At the very least, his lack of sensitivity for the importance of this issue is unprofessional.