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Do you know what ageism is?

Updated on February 15, 2013

Ageism Defined

Ageism is discrimination against a certain age group, particularly elders. Ageism is treating elders as unworthy of attention, unsuitable for employment and as frail debilitated people. Although ageism is often directed at very old people it begins at a much younger age, often among employers who exchange older seasoned expensive employees for less expensive younger employees.

How do we feel ageism?

  • 80% of people age 60 or older say they have experienced ageism due to people assuming they experienced memory loss or physical imparements due to ageing.
  • Many people 50 and older feel they have experienced discrimination as a result of employment practices.
  • Seniors are often the Butt of jokes about memory loss
  • Doctors and Caregiver often address younger adult children when discussing symptoms, treatments and care plans.
  • The media through advertising depicts seniors as feeble, uninformed and technologically unsavey.
  • Laws and regulations as well as community practices limit choices for senior citizens.

Unfavorable Medical Treatment

Recently a story was shared with me about an elder person living in our community suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She had apparently fallen and injured herself, expressing pain to he caregiver. 911 was called to assist with her care. A routine medical check was perfoemed by paramedics to determine the condition of the patient. The paramedics assessment aparently showed no injury even though the patient continued to show signs of distress. The patient was returned to her bed and paramedics left. The resident continued to complain and was taken to the hospital by family and she was found to have a broken clavicle. Is this ageism?

There are many documented incedents where seniors are treated unfairly by medical practitioners simply due to advanced age. Often medical professionals weigh the expence and possible benefits against projected longevity. For example a 30 year old would benefit more from a heart transplant than would an 85 year old. However, there are more considerations than age alone, but it is presumed that younger patients would benefit from extended life expectancy of say 30 years over an older person with extended life expectancy of say 5 years. Is this ageism?

Here are some ways you may experience ageism in Health Care:

  • You may not be referred to a specialist or consultant because you are too old
  • Your benefits may be restricted
  • While seeking medical assistance you may hear inappropriate comments regarding your age
  • Service providers may use Terms of Endearment such as "sweetie" or "honey"
  • You may be pushed into services you do not feel you need or want
  • You may be refused specific social services simply because of your age


Terms Of Endearment

Honey, Baby, and Sweetie are terms of endearment often used by caregivers in formal and informal care settings. Terms of endearment are a type of ageism and have unintended emotional meaning for the receiver.

Consider These Terms of Endearment

Term of Endearment
What You Mean
What it May Mean
You are very sweet
You are annoyingly sticky sweet
You are a treat like Pumpkin pie
You are fat and have a bad tan
You are so cute I can't describe it in words
You are not with it enough to understand language, so I will use baby talk
You are innocent and cute
You are acting like a big baby
You make me feel special
Those pants are so tight they make you look like a muffin

Elder Abuse, A Family Matter

Elder abuse has many faces including mental and physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect, and financial abuses. Perpetrators typically include caregivers, adult children, spouses and other family members, but can include paid caregivers or employees of assisted living facilities.

According to The National Center on Elder Abuse, for the years 1986 to 1996, cases of elder abuse reported to state adult protective service agencies and state units on ageing increased by 150 % nationwide. Victims are more often women than men are, however the perpetrators are as likely to be female as male. Family members are most likely to be the abusers of the elderly, with adult children abusing aging parents in 36.7% of the cases while other family members represented 10.8 % of the cases and spouses accounted for 12.6% in 1996.

Ageing seniors become increasingly dependent on families and caregivers as they reach advanced ages. Declines in mobility, chronic illnesses and general frailty increase the need for ongoing and continuous care creating burnout and stress for caregivers. The high demands created by caregiving relationships combined with minimal relief for caregivers increases the risk for abuse.


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    • profile image

      Hicham 3 years ago

      I don't look it, the fact is the fact. I cannot belveie it is here already. I remember just turning 50!! I am very grateful for my two beautiful daughters and my 7 wonderful grandchildren. I am a very lucky woman but the idea of having 70 years behind me already does quite frighten me. Oh well, I will continue to read on and see how other people have handeled it!! Thanks for your time ..

    • mjboomer profile image

      Mike Elzner 5 years ago from Oregon

      The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Mathew 25:40

      Thank You Jon

    • JON EWALL profile image

      JON EWALL 5 years ago from usa


      Being a 24/7 caregiver for a family member is a tough occupation.Some how their reward may be in another world assuming they made life just a little better for someone.