Ageism is a prejudice or discrimination based on the grounds of a person’s age, and it happens at both ends of the age spectrum. Here at Springpoint at Home, we recognize how real this problem is and want to shine a light on the ageism that impacts our elders.
The difficulty in combating ageism is that it is embedded in our society’s assumption that everyone is young and only the young have something to offer. These negative attitudes and stereotypes are insidious in the way we look at, and too often treat, older people. For some elders, the barrier of ageism is compounded by race, religion, sexual orientation, and language. The result is a failure to respond to the real needs of our elders.
This failure occurs at all levels of our society, from the “handicap” entrance that is at the back of the building to the entrance that does not have automatic doors, requiring you to hold them open to get inside.
This failure occurs when housing that meets the needs of our elders is financially out of reach. Certainly, monetary help in modifications to their home allowing them to age in place is a good financial investment for society.
Another failure occurs when programs and volunteer opportunities which allow older people to contribute to society are out of reach because of transportation issues. Everyone needs to feel their life has a purpose, and this is especially true of our elders.
At its most harmful is the way in which our healthcare system discounts or ignores health concerns, writing them off as “old age” instead of listening and determining what can be done to help our elders live their best life. This is especially true of mental health, where we are seeing a growing concern in depression and isolation after the pandemic. In some studies (conducted before 2017), it was found that doctors were less likely to refer an older person for mental health treatment because of the view that suicidal thoughts were a “logical” experience with growing older.
So, how do we combat ageism? It starts by acknowledging that it is real and being aware of our own prejudices and assumptions about the elders in our life and those we meet in society. Because ageism is internalized, we need to be aware when we treat older adults like they are children who need help with basic tasks. We need to be careful of and call out jokes that imply a person is less worthy of respect or value because of their age. When we talk in front of an older person about them, we are treating them as if they are invisible or expendable. When we get angry or frustrated because we feel that they are stuck in their ways or out of touch, we lose the opportunity to understand their life and why they feel a certain way.
Springpoint at Home believes that our elders have value and deserve our respect. We work hard to ensure our Certified Home Health Aides (CHHAs) have the education they need so this type of ageism does not creep into their work.
Awareness leads to advocacy, and that means ensuring the healthcare system listens to and respects the needs of our elders. If you feel that a doctor or nurse is not spending enough time with your elder to listen to them or clearly explain alternatives, speak up. If a healthcare professional is treating them like a child by using terms of endearment instead of their name or oversimplified language, speak up. This “elderspeak” is disrespectful and contributes to older people internalizing ageist beliefs themselves.
Our Aging Life Care Advisor™/Care Managers are advocates who speak up for their clients at doctor visits by ensuring the best quality care, illness prevention, and help with disabilities. Because we know that ageism is associated with an average decrease of 7.5 years of life, we work to ensure that the resources we provide to our clients are well versed in the dangers of ageism.
To learn more about Springpoint at Home and the benefit of our services, call 844-724-1777.