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Discrimination against older adults is on the rise

Discrimination against senior citizens

Discrimination against older adults is on the rise around the world. From anti-aging creams to criticism of those who hold public office in government because of their age, the need to reflect on the impact of these prejudices on the daily lives of this population is becoming increasingly evident.

Ninety-three percent of older adults in the 50 to 80 age range have experienced discrimination because of their age, not only in the way they are forced to retire or withdraw from certain activities, but also in their daily lives. 

"Birthday cards with jokes about aging, anti-aging products, comments like 'you look so good for your age,' or people assuming that all older adults have memory problems or hearing loss," said Jullie Allen, assistant professor of health promotion at the University of Oklahoma, are forms of what she calls "everyday ageism."

In a panel organized by Etnic Media ServicesIn addition to the evident impact on the mental health of this sector, the expert pointed out that age discrimination also affects physical health, since there is an acceleration of aging due to the stress suffered by older adults, increasing the risk of suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart problems, and even premature death.

Loneliness, depression and chronic diseases are part of the stereotypes of aging that cause older adults not to receive or seek specialized medical care, as these conditions are seen as "normal" in relation to their age.

"Older adults receive lower quality health care than younger people," Allen pointed out, as individual health care providers' decisions about what types of situations are worth treating are based on the age of the individuals, denying this sector of the population procedures such as organ transplantation.

However, older adults are not only excluded from basic activities or from work, but their mental and physical capacity to hold public office is also questioned, using stereotypes of this sector as an indicator to decide whether or not they should be part of politics.

Paul Kleyman, national coordinator of the Network of Journalists in Generations, pointed out that Joseph Biden, President of the United States or Dianne Feinstein, U.S. Senator, should be judged based on their merits and not on their age, since "age discrimination in the country affects vital sectors of our society".

Likewise, Patricia D'Antonio, vice president of policy and professional affairs for the Gerontological Society of America pointed out that "we have to recognize that there are challenges for us as we age, but there is also an accumulated wisdom that comes with age" so older people must be included to address those challenges.

D'Antonio stressed the importance of older adults being recognized and knowing that they continue to contribute to society and that society recognizes and supports them with wheelchairs, transportation systems, age-neutral businesses and health services.

"The number of birthday candles on your cake is simply an acknowledgement to celebrate our years and our wisdom," D'Antonio pointed out and took the opportunity to emphasize that intergenerational experiences make for a much richer culture.

Women are the most affected by discrimination against older adults

"Women are aging in greater numbers than men," noted Louise Aronson, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. As of 2016, there were 79 men for every 100 women aged 65 and older, and although the numbers have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are greater numbers of women within the older adult population.

In addition, Aronson commented that women not only suffer from age discrimination but also gender discrimination, increasing the complications they experience as a result. 

"Women earn less money than men," she pointed out, so they not only face the aforementioned physical and mental health problems, but also financial ones.

At the same time, he pointed out that women are more prone to aging while men are more likely to die, so it is women who suffer from chronic diseases, disabilities and a lower quality of life.

You may be interested in: California expands Medi-Cal to seniors over 50 regardless of immigration status

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