Fighting Ageism in America
Experts have proven that negative attitudes about aging can actually decrease life expectancy. On average, these people live seven and a half years less than peers with positive attitudes about their increasing age. Ageist attitudes can negatively impact older persons mental health, as well as physical health. They are slower to recover from injury and falls; in addition, they walk slower and experience more memory loss. In a study conducted by the World Health Organization, 57 countries took part in a survey where over 60% of respondents reported that older people are not respected. Interestingly enough, countries with the highest incomes reported the lowest levels of respectfulness. Some preconceived notions about seniors is that they are slow, grouchy, and closed-minded.
Instead of describing how seniors are, we tend to ‘prescribe’ what we think they should be. Researchers at Princeton University held ageism studies and found that Prescriptive Prejudice occurs in 3 areas:
- Consumption: the belief that older people should consume less scarce resources than others. This idea applies especially to elder use of healthcare.
- Identity: the belief that older people should not try to act younger than their age.
- Succession: the belief that younger people are more deserving of high-paying jobs and prominent social roles.
We know the treatment of seniors is impacted by ageist attitudes, but so is the quality of care they receive. Oftentimes, healthcare professionals expect less from seniors. For example, they expect seniors to have lower recovery time, less improvement, and more potential for additional problems down the line. For this reason, over-treatment and misdiagnosis can occur.
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