Agingis inevitable. The human race has invested a lot of money, resourcesand research to find a way to prolong life and even prevent aging. Itis clear that for the longest time, man has feared aging and eventualdeath. These fears towards aging and late adulthood are largelylinked to biological, psychological, physical and social-culturalchanges that happen with old age. These changes are not welcome formost people and society has generally underperformed in managing oldage and death discrimination based on age being rampant. Thisdiscrimination is usually systematic and casual and defined by theterm ageism. This paper looks at the status of modern ageism and themeasures society has put in place to ensure comfortable living andeventual death for senior citizens.
Ageismand prejudice against old people affects their quality of life. Inworkplaces and other areas, many people have prejudice against oldercolleagues. In spite of considerable research suggesting that jobperformance does not necessarily decrease with age, most elderlyemployees are perceived as less effective or less productive in theworkplace compared to younger employees (North & Fiske 2012).These prejudices also vary among different age groups with theyounger adults being the most common culprits. Ageism is also morepronounced in men than in women (Bodner, Bergman & Cohen-Fridel,2012). Systemic discrimination is also propagated by policies andinstitutions. For instance, in the healthcare system, medicalpersonnel are likely to dismiss ailments among the elderly assymptoms of old age and thus diminish the quality of care. Thegovernment has also been cited to promote ageism in a systemic mannerthrough what North and Fiske calls “compassionate ageism.” Thisportrayed by creating a public perception of older people deservingsome things out of their age rather than based on meritocracy. Suchcases highlight the complexity of ageism both from the perpetratorsand victims’ perspectives.
Thereare different theories that posit various causes of ageism.Extant-psychological theories explain the roots of aged basedprejudice by indicating that ageism takes place at different levelsnamely: individual, interpersonal, evolutionary, and socio-cultural.One major individual level theory is the terror management theory.This theory claims that realization of one’s own mortality andeventual death forces people to react negatively with anything thatreminds them of this mortality and older people fall under thiscategory. Interpersonal theories claim that older people areassociated with negative qualities hence the negative attitudetowards them. In most cases, there are myths that older people arewitches, unclean, smelly or even ugly. Such images see younger peoplerepelling the elderly. Social cultural theories lean towardsidentifying social cultural changes that promote ageism. One of themis modernization which has tended to favor the young in the workplaceas they can change and adapt more easily. Another influence istechnology with some elderly people viewed as slow because of theirreluctance to embrace technology. Another cause suggested is thegrowing number elder adults’ people as healthcare improves creatinga larger population of elderly people that society has not learned toaccommodate (North & Fiske 2012).
Elderlypeople have relatively weaker social relations. A randomizedcontrolled trial by Clark etal.(2009) examined how a nine-month lifestyle intervention program in anethnically diverse sample of elderly Americans impacted their lives.Part of the lifestyle intervention involved building socialconnections through various activities such as making new contacts.The participants were organized into groups of 6-8 and managed by atherapist who administred the intervention. Results showed markedimprovements in their physiological and physical health. The authorsthus conclude that such interventions are better suited in creating aricher and well rounded lifestyle for the elderly in cost effectivemanner.
Familiesand friends provide needed social support systems for the olderadults. By being constantly present, family members are an integralpart in providing care and social support to promote the wellness ofelder adults. North and Fiske (2012) however note that families andeven nursing homes are the core causes of ageism and ill health forolder adults. They caution that such cases of ageism and abuse areunderreported as authorities are better informed on other forms ofdomestic violence but not one meted out against elder adults. Innormal situations however, families also foster positive attitudestoward older people. This is facilitated by close interaction witholder people to demystify some of the common myths about the elderlythat create a negative attitude towards them.
Creatingintergeneration links with older people beyond family and friendsfosters understanding. North and Fiske (2012) note that religion,culture and some social practices are very critical in promotingintergeneration contact with older people. Studies have alreadyestablished that intergeneration contact within the family promotespositive attitudes towards older people. By extension, it is assumedthat increased contact with older people will enable betterunderstanding between older people and other generations therebyaddressing ageism.
Culturaland personal attitudes about death and dignity in late adulthooddetermines level of ageism in a society. As has been indicated by theterror management theory, people develop negative attitudes as aresult of the fear of their own mortality and eventual aging. Theidea that they will develop wrinkles, be physically weak, lose theirmental capacity can trigger fear in some people (North & Fiske(2012). Most of these fears about death and old age are sourced fromcultural and personal beliefs. In some culture and religions, deathis seen as passage into another world. Personal beliefs about deathand old age may vary due to personal experience in life especially inrelating with people. Studies have shown that personal views of deathand old age may differ across the gender divide. For men, the fear ofold age is mostly linked to loss physical strength and sexual powerwhile for women fear it is triggered by physical appearances. Theimportance placed on such values by a given culture thus informs theattitudes towards old age and fear among the people (Bodner, Bergman& Cohen-Fridel, 2012).
Thediscussion shows the complexity of ageism as a health and a socialissue that society must deal with. The growing population of elderlypeople in the society means that governments and the society at largemust develop new ways to make life comfortable for these individuals.Given that late adulthood is an eventual stage for most people, it isimportant to set the right trend in handling them and even creatingthe right perception and attitudes towards them in preparing thecurrent younger generation for the same.
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Clark,F., Jackson, J. Carlson, M., Chou, C. & Cherry, B. et al (2009).Effectiveness of a lifestyle
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NorthM. & Fiske S. (2012). An inconvenienced youth? ageism and itspotential
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