One of the major challenges that we are facing as a global village is Ageism. Older adults are commonly subjected to ageism and it is affecting their health, causing social isolation, early deaths, and costing the economy billions.

According to a report by the United Nations, every second person in the world is believed to hold ageist attitudes. This has been unveiled in the elder care response to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted the seriousness of existing gaps in systems, policies, and services. Seeping into many institutions and sectors of society, including elder care, health and wellness infrastructure, workplace, media, and the legal system, age-based stereotypes harms everyone- the old and the young.

In this article, we’ll learn about ageism and its harmful impacts on senior citizens and elder care.

What is Ageism?

Ageism is discrimination or prejudice against people based on their age. Ageism is a systematic form of oppression and may be considered a deep-rooted human rights violation. Unlike other causes of inequity, such as sexism, racism, or ableism, anyone can experience ageism. In fact, ageism intersects and exacerbates other forms of disadvantages and bias including the ones related to race, sex, and disability.

While it typically applies to people who are older, ageism also harms young people. Ageism is so widespread and accepted in the policies, laws, and institutions as well as in our attitudes, that we often do not recognize the detrimental effects of ageism on our dignity and rights.

Harmful Impacts of Ageism   

Ageism has some serious and wide-ranging consequences on people’s health and well-being. This is especially true for older people as they are commonly subjected to ageism. These harmful impacts of ageism include:
  1. Higher rates of illness: Ageism has serious consequences on people’s health and well-being. In older people, it is associated with poorer physical and mental health, increased social isolation, loneliness, higher financial insecurity, decreased quality of life, and premature death increasing the need for home care nursing. Hiring a home attendant for the elderly has become a necessity. It is estimated that about 6.3 million cases of depression globally are to be attributed to ageism. Ageism influences one’s health through psychological, physiological, and behavioural pathways. Negative age stereotypes can exacerbate stress and affect us psychologically. Negative self-perceptions of ageing also predict bad health behaviour such as non-compliance with prescribed medications. It is also associated with other risk-taking behaviours such as drinking, smoking, and eating an unhealthy diet. Hiring a caretaker for elderly parent has become a necessity. Negative age stereotypes also predict detrimental brain changes. Ageism is known to reduce people’s mental and physical health, reducing their quality of life and increasing their need for home care nursing and home attendant for the elderly.
  1. Increased healthcare spending: Ageism costs our society billions of dollars. It increases the elderly care needs of the victims. According to a study in 2020 in the United States of America, ageism in the form of negative self-perceptions and age stereotypes led to excess annual costs of US$63 billion for some of the most expensive health conditions. Ageism has led to excess costs across a broad range of health issues that increase the average spending of an individual on healthcare and caretaker for the elderly at home.
  1. Lower life expectancy: The various harmful physical and psychological effects of ageism has been studied to lower life expectancy. Researchers found evidence that ageism has led to worse outcomes in a number of physical health conditions and mental health conditions, including depression and a shorter life expectancy. Various studies in multiple countries have shown that when older adults absorb negative age stereotypes from the culture, they have a shorter life expectancy. Evidence has been found of denied access to health care treatments and indications of ageism in medical decisions, a trend that has increased over time. If you or your loved one is in need of specialized care, it is a good idea to hire a home attendant for the elderly or home care nursing.
  1. Access to opportunities: In the workplace, both older and younger adults are often at a disadvantage. Access to specialized training and education tends to decline significantly with age. It manifests itself across many areas and sectors such as health, employment, housing, and politics. Ageism, towards both younger and older people, is unrecognized, prevalent, unchallenged, and has far-reaching consequences for society and the economy.
  1. Poverty: Ageism causes added financial stress for older adults. In most countries, the risk of poverty increases with age. With the lack of opportunities at the workplace and low wages, getting old presents a significant and additional risk for the elderly of becoming or remaining poor. The increased need, as well as the cost, of healthcare and home care nursing, makes the plight worse. This particularly makes the older adults vulnerable to economic insecurity as well as poverty with limited options to escape. In old age, access to social security is also closely associated with existing gender inequalities, making it especially difficult for women to thrive financially and adding to their financial insecurity.
  1. Societal repercussions: Because everyone ages, ageism is a form of inequity that affects everyone, irrespective of their race, sex, and abilities. It affects intergenerational understanding and cooperation. This leads to discrimination in all sectors of life for both young people and older adults.

Ageism is one of the most institutionalized forms of prejudice today. There is a huge need for efforts from governments and institutions to bring about law and policy changes that can reduce age-based inequity and discrimination. Using education to dispel the stereotypes and myths related to ageism and raising awareness of the impact of ageism is the need of the hour. All countries and stakeholders should be encouraged to use evidence-based strategies, improve data research and collection, and work together to build a movement to change how we feel, think, and act toward ageing in order to advance the progress of the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing.

On an individual level, one can contribute to efforts towards eradicating ageism by being an ally. Allyship involves:
  • Becoming aware of ageism and reflecting on how ageism influences one’s own feelings, thoughts, and life experiences.
  • Learned about how ageism affects others by reading books, listening to personal stories, and researching.
  • Putting the knowledge to use by taking action and trying to correct ageist stereotypes, speaking out against ageist discrimination, and challenging ageist jokes. Supporting and advocating for people who are struggling to be heard has the potential to make a difference. 

Eldercare is an elderly care service provider that is dedicated to improving the physical and mental wellness of elders via various services including home nursing services, old age caretaker at home, and private duty nursing. For information about our Health & Wellness Advisory and other services, call us on 08045914567.