What is ageism and how is it harmful to people at every age? Dr. Didyk, a Geriatrician and specialist in medical care for older adults, defines ageism and reviews how it gets in the way of getting to know each other and getting the right medical care!
A big part of my job as a geriatrician is fighting ageism. Ageism is defined as discrimination against an individual because of their age and that can be at a younger age or older age or somewhere in between.
It's not hard to find examples of ageism, there rampant in advertising and marketing.
But why should we be worried about ageism and how can it be harmful.
1. Preconceptions about age can affect a person's job opportunities or their access to experiences in general. For example, if you think someone is too old to be hired or too young for a promotion.
2. Ageist assumptions can get in the way of relationships. If we assume that somebody is going to have a certain interest or value simply because of their age group then it could preclude communication And would prevent us from actually finding out what those characteristics are. If you assume that every older person is more likely to want to sit in a rocking chair than to go for a walk then you might not invite them for that evening stroll. That's a missed opportunity to make a connection and build a relationship.
3. In health care, ageism can cause suffering when people make assumptions about what is normal for their age. If somebody assumes that it is normal to live with pain, then they may not seek help for a condition that could be treatable and reversible. The same is true when it comes to cognitive impairment. Many people think that it's normal to have diminishing cognitive abilities with age, and to an extent there's some truth to that but the severe changes that we might see in something like dementia is definitely not normal and needs attention. Just chalking it up to age and not seeking help could be detrimental to a person’s health.
You can learn more about dementia and what's normal change in cognition with aging here.
Or to challenge your assumptions about sex and older adults, check out what TheWrinkle has to say about it in our series on Sex and Seniors, Part1, Part 2 and Part 3.
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