Why You Should Speak Up to Create Positive Change Within the MS Community
As I reflect on my life, I find myself perplexed by the phenomenon of aging and the marginalization that often comes with it. Once we reach the age of 60, I feel we become increasingly invisible to society, as if we're no longer deemed valuable or relevant. It's as though there's an unspoken agreement that we've crossed a predetermined line, after which we're no longer valued.
This is a particularly pressing issue for those living with multiple sclerosis, who face the challenges of their condition and must confront the added burden of ageism. We must recognize the harm caused by ageism and work to create a more inclusive society where everyone is valued and respected regardless of their age or health status.
I've been associated with many influential organizations since I was diagnosed 37 years ago. For many of them, I've performed volunteer work, worked on numerous fundraisers, was interviewed for their literature, taken part in various MS-focused initiatives, and referred countless patients to them for guidance. I look to them for empowerment and inspiration. However, after turning sixty, I noticed age discrimination in their advertising and some initiatives. This bothered me for a long time until I decided that instead of stewing, I should take action.
I spoke to someone in the advocacy department of one of the organizations. I had a productive conversation about how MS doesn't stop after 60 and that our demographic should be equally represented. Transparency about who's affected by the disease is crucial not only for the able-bodied community but also for the entire disabled community. I was assured my comments would be discussed at the next board meeting. Years later, I'm still waiting for a change in their direction.
"There is no ageism or 'youthism' regarding freedom of speech. We are all citizens." ~ Jacques Parizeau
MS can happen to both the young and old
It's worth noting that most people with MS get diagnosed between 20 and 50. However, it's also possible for people younger than 20 or older than 50 to develop the disease.1
We must convey to the entire community that MS is not age-discriminatory. Wouldn't a newly diagnosed person in their twenties or thirties be happy to see or read about someone living with MS in their sixties, seventies, or older? I think it would give them hope and, hopefully, a sense of calm.
What does all of this mean for us?
We can create a society that values and respects ALL ages where MS is concerned. Using our voices to speak out against ageism within our community is crucial. Together, we can positively impact the world by promoting inclusivity for everyone diagnosed with MS.
Speak up, be constructive when viewing your opinions, share your thoughts and feelings with a phone conversation or email, or even write an article like this! We truly are in this together.
Were you misdiagnosed with something else before receiving a MS diagnosis?