Ageism and the Elderly
Decrepit, senile, over the hill, old fart or slow driver are often the words you hear when referring to “the elderly”. In 1969, Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging was the first to use the term “ageism” to describe the stereotyping of people because of their age. The term ageism contains a negative bias or attitude toward the aging. This it a form of discrimination. While there is other ‘isms used in American society; sexism, or racism, ageism enables the younger generation to see older people differently, they may be seen as just old people who are no longer able to actively contribute to society.
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They are made to feel they are no longer of value and therefore not worthy of commanding respect. Other countries, like Japan and China consider their older citizens honorable and are treated with respect and honor. There are very few retirement homes in these countries because these families honor their elders and thrive on the wisdom they can offer. So when they are unable to care themselves family members step in and take care of them.
Society put’s people into classifications. Even though there are laws to protect classification (also known as stereotyping) it is done every day, there are classifications for race, religion, even sexual orientation. So as people progress through life their classification also changes; start school, age 4; graduate high school and attend college, age 18; graduate from college and procure gain full-time employment, age 25; stop working, age 65. So unless you die at a young age everyone will experienced some sort-of ageism.
Ageism can be inflicted upon oneself. Our society worships youthfulness and to be young you need to be sexy, full of energy, somewhat thin and no wrinkles. So since most seniors are none of those they tend to feel less than worthy, isolated, and become depressed. These can cause a decline in mental and physical capabilities leading to just giving up.
Because of financial responsibility most seniors started working at young ages. With the companies changing to more technology capabilities they have been forced to cut cost and workforce. The first to be eliminated or replaced are the older workers, either they make too much and it is cost effective to hire a younger, cheaper employees or management feels technology has just surpassed their learning levels. This creates a financial burden often referred to as economic ageism. The financial circumstances not only affect money in the pocket but affect, medical, food and even social activity abilities. For just these reasons congress has enacted the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, this prevents people from getting fired because of their age. In addition, the American Association of Retired Persons fights for senior citizens when they feel they have been “squeezed” out of job because of their age.
Research has been done on ageism and the affects but there is still a great deal to do. Changes need to be done with those individuals doing the research and the content. For example, most of the ageism researchers are using children and young adults to examine their perception of older adults. The other problem with the research is that adults from institutions are being used; this does not give a clear picture of the elderly in life settings. The majority are not effectively being represented in the studies. Additionally, research is not attempting to understand or examine the causes of ageism or any experimental research has been performed to view the contributing factors of ageism.
Healthcare has both indirect and direct...