The age of age discrimination
By RANI CHOR
It is time we question society’s belief that a number determines our maturity and abilities.
How many times have you been told to “stop being immature” or that “you are just too young to understand?” Such degrading comments are evidence of an illness that pervades modern cultures—the belief that maturity is entirely dependent on age, and nothing else. However, with the future in the hands of our generation, it is time for this age-old belief to change its course.
Although age is a defining factor that legally decides what we can or cannot do, maturity is nurtured through our own unique experiences and marked by our ability to face challenges and make responsible decisions.
However, when age is used as a “limit,” we are discouraged from trying new things or pursuing our dreams once the supposed window of opportunity passes. Just like how the saying goes, “you are never too old to smile?”, research shows that we can never be too old to dance, sing or aspire to reach our dreams. Take, for instance, Barbara Peters, who made the headlines last January when she passed an elite dance test at 80 years old. Thus, age should not be used as a way to hinder our dreams or our visions of success.
Unfortunately, a disturbing trend has been recurring over the years as others repeatedly ask the question, “if you have not lived enough of life, how can you possibly be mature enough to handle life’s problems?” Yet, the truth is that most children do not live perfect childhoods. Whether it be being raised by a single parent or facing financial hardships, these challenges expose children to life experience. Their early challenges sharpen their maturity at a young age, relaying that maturity is not one size fits all.
Though neuroscience tells us that the brain is not fully grown until the age of 25, every individual is unique in how their mind develops and how they view their life experiences. Essentially, though children and young adults often need adult guidance, they nonetheless have the ability to approach problems and think independently. Society has the mentality that children must sacrifice their childhood and “grow up” in order to achieve their dreams. However, by telling a child “stop being immature,” we only reinforce this societal notion and diminish their self-perception without offering a solution or guidance.
For too long, young adults have been severely underestimated due to the supposed correlation between age and maturity. As a result of this age-on-age discrimination, an expectation to act one’s age is placed on adults. This stifles creativity and sets the example for children that maturity is something that will come in time rather than active learning and reflection. Ultimately, maturity comes from trying and failing. And how could anyone possibly fail if they never tried?
If our society continues to push maturity into the realm of adulthood, we will be wasting potential in countless individuals and dragging society deeper into ignorance and unfair age discrimination.
Nowadays as science, politics and cultures shift, the definition of maturity and immaturity is becoming incredibly uncertain. A little girl who knows to look both ways on the street is considered mature for her age. A grown man having a tantrum in Chuck E Cheese is acting upon the first amendment rather than being childish because he is an adult. We often discriminate people due to their age without realizing the experiences that led individuals to act the way they do.
Maturity is something we have to discover within ourselves. Through someone’s learning experiences and attitudes, we can determine someone’s level of maturity, but never simply by looking for grey hairs and wrinkles.