One of the most depressing and debilitating encounters which senior citizens face today, is ageism. Ageism can present itself in many ways. More often than not in day-to-day interactions with our parents or grandparents, we tend to make ageist statements in a light-hearted manner. It can be something as simple as saying ‘’You are too old to do this ‘’, to something as critical as ‘’why do you keep doing this when you know that you are too old and not capable of doing it’’.
If this is the situation at home, it is far worse when these interactions happen outside. Right from a Taxi driver to clerks in a supermarket, tend to look down upon the elderly, talk to them with an attitude of superiority and try to intimidate them. Sometimes this takes a far more dangerous form when criminal elements of society target the elderly for financial and physical harm.
Positive or negative attitudes are an unavoidable aspect of human life. However, continuously discriminating against people for their age is an unfortunate consequence and leads to stereotyping.
We find evidence of ageism in multiple aspects of our society. Right from colleges and specialized courses which make it very difficult for an elderly person to pursue new vocational or specialized education to even a news-paper where the fonts are designed to be small so that it makes it very difficult for middle-aged and older people to read them comfortably, ageism is there in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. The worst form of ageism is seen in workplaces where there are very few opportunities available for the elderly and most of the organizations choose to let go of older employees during downsizing.
One of the most dangerous aspects of ageism is seen in how we respond to our elders. Whenever there is a tough conversation at home the younger generation tend to quickly jump to the consequences that ‘’you are becoming cranky and stubborn with age’’, ‘’ you must be having dementia ‘’.Most of my patients when they take the appointments for parents and grandparents, feel it necessary to use descriptions like’’ my father is very difficult to deal with ‘’, ‘’please be tough with him’’, please threaten and scare him to take medication ‘’, ‘’he is very unreasonable about his health’’. Statements like these try to set a negative bias against the elderly. In reality, hardly 5-6 % of our patients have clinically manifested signs of anxiety, depression or senility.
More often than not these frequent statements, and physical attitudes towards the elderly, contribute to worsening their emotional state and paradoxically they tend to react with a necessity to prove their self-worth and their independence by encouraging and engaging in high-risk behaviours.
Though, they are many reasons why such attitudes exist, one of the most common reason is that, we do not spend a sufficient amount of time with our elders. In addition, elders who appear fit and use hair dye and makeup are openly praised and appreciated in front of their colleagues and friends who may be equally healthy but do not invest in their appearance as much.
One of the more startling outcomes of this negative attitude toward the elderly has been to reduce their quality of life. Such negative attitudes work as a self-fulfilling prophecy and will result in the victims of ageism actively showing the traits of the stereotypes.
It is important for the younger individuals to know that if they want to have a good relationship with the elders in their lives, they need to actively spend more time and enable the elderly to feel more independence and utility in their golden years. Otherwise, our elders will suffer in silence, losing contact with the changes in their world and begin a process of stagnation and eventually convince themself that they are useless and should simply die. The onus of helping them celebrate their age, the wisdom and experience they have earned throughout their lives is upon us.
To know more about how to assess the quality of life for yourself or the elders in your life please reach out to our clinical assessment team at +919888358666.