Within our society, there are some common myths, stereotypes, and negative attitudes that are thought to be truths about older adults and thus greatly influence our interactions with them. Several stereotypes about older adults are discussed in the media clips (Notes from the Field), (e.g., older adults are evil, rigid or incompetent, lose their memories, slower, obsolete, inflexible, don’t want to try anything new, and have poor opinions of anything that’s new or people that are younger than they are). Some forms of ageism encountered in healthcare settings by older adults’ are based on entrenched attitudes that a worker may have (“Ageism in Healthcare and Long-Term Care”). These attitudes may have been passed on by well meaning colleagues, family members or friends who are aging themselves and lack the proper education or training needed when working with older adults (Ferrini and Ferrini 6).
Often times due to these negative attitudes toward older adults’, healthcare workers perceptions of aging might be looked at as a time of deterioration and decline with the positive aspects of aging ignored. Negative biases among healthcare workers can lead to offensive and poor quality care. Healthcare workers are more likely to use physical restrictions; be disrespectful, and patronize the patients’ autonomy and dignity (“Ageism’s Influence on Health Care Delivery and Nursing Practice”).
As a society we attempt to make policies that serve most people, however, if policy decisions are made based on any ageist stereotypes we create preconceived ideas that are prejudice and not grounded in reality (CSA). Unfortunately, the healthcare establishment is the biggest culprit of ageism. They often experience older adults during times of their needing care for problems that may be associated with a disease and miss out on those who are actively aging well (Notes from the Field). Education is paramount in the health care field especially when working with older adults. To distinguish the realities of aging from the social stereotypes requires an understanding of the “normal” changes that can be expected in the aging body versus pathological changes or disease (Social Gerontology 2). Ageist attitudes among healthcare providers lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, poor management of multiple chronic conditions, loss of independence, overuse, under-use and misuse of prescription drugs, to name just a few. It has been noted that these manifestations of ageism can take a serious toll and harm older adults by exacerbating and prolonging illness, isolation, unnecessary institutionalization, loss of independence and premature death (ASA).
Along with the proper training and education that is needed in the field of geriatrics; I believe a hands on approach could help overcome some of the stereotypical ideas healthcare workers have about older adults. Healthcare workers need to participate in some of the programs that are offered to older adults (i.e., Silver Sneakers, Bingo, local trips to various destinations with older adults, eating lunch at the Senior Center). The healthcare establishments in the community or nationwide could ask for retired healthcare workers to volunteer as mentors for training purposes. Part of training might be to spend the night in a RCFE (Residential Care Facility for the Elderly) with the purpose of spending quality time getting to know the residents who call the facility their home.
Working with older adults gives a person an opportunity to come into contact with extraordinary people. Their depth of wisdom, capability, humor, generosity and vitality can help take away some of the mistaken stereotypes one might have towards older adults.
“Aging and Society.” Working with Seniors: Health, Financial, and Social Issues. Comp. Society of Certified Senior Advisors. Denver, CO: Certified Senior Advisor (CSA), 2005. N. pag. Print.
Blanchard-Field, Fredda, Ph.D., K. W. Schaie, Ph.D., and Laura Mosqueda, MD. Notes from the Field: Ageism in the Health Professions. N.p.: Media Transcripts, n.d. PDF.
“California Department of Aging – State of California.” California Department of Aging – State of California. Sara S. Hunt, Consultant, Aug. 2007. Web. 03 Apr. 2014. <http://www.aging.ca.gov/>.
Ferrini, Armeda F., and Rebecca L. Ferrini. Health in the Later Years. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2000. Print.
Hooyman, Nancy R., and H. Asuman Kiyak. Social Gerontology. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2011. Print.
Kane, Robert L., and Rosalie A. Kane. “Ageism in Healthcare and Long-Term Care.” Generations XXIX.3 (2005): 49-54. The American Society on Aging. Web.
Simkins, Chelsea L. “Ageism’s Influence on Health Care Delivery and Nursing Practice.” Journal of Student Nursing Research 1.1 (2007): n. pag. ScholarlyCommons. Web. 3