May is Older Americans Month, and it’s time to understand one of the biggest issues that elderly people face: ageism. According to the World Health Organization, ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age. The WHO goes on to say that ageism is a widespread issue, negatively affecting the health of older adults. For elderly people, ageism can be an everyday challenge. Ageism can cause elderly people to be overlooked for employment, restricted from social services, and stereotyped in the media. Ageism marginalizes and excludes older people in their communities.

While ageism exists everywhere, tragically it is perhaps the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice. Because of this, it is not widely fought against.

The number of Americans 60 and older is growing, according to the American Psychological Association, but geropsychologists say society still isn’t embracing the aging population. Elderly citizens in Okeechobee and surrounding areas are still battling stereotypes and trying to obtain equal standing in their communities.

In fact, in a survey of 84 people ages 60 and older, nearly 80 percent of respondents reported experiencing ageism – in situations such as other people assuming they had memory or physical impairments due to their age, reports the American Psychological Association. According to a 2001 survey by Duke University’s Erdman Palmore, PhD, appearing in The Gerontologist (Vol. 41, No. 5), the most frequent type of ageism – reported by 58 percent of respondents–was being told a joke that pokes fun at older people. In addition, 31 percent of the survey respondents reported being ignored or not taken seriously because of their age.

What many people don’t understand is that ageism is far more than simply a frustrating matter. Ageism affects mental health. Not only is ageism degrading and demeaning, but ageism has seeped into the healthcare industry, affecting the way elderly people receive diagnostics and treatment. Older patients are often viewed by health professionals as set in their ways and unable to change their behavior. Many researchers believe that mental health problems – such as cognitive impairment or psychological disorders caused at least in part by complex pharmacological treatments – often go unrecognized and untreated in the growing demographic of elderly people.

This is deeply concerning, especially since there are nearly 35 million Americans who are over 65 years old, according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and that number is expected to double by 2030, to 20 percent of the population.

Have you experienced the damaging impacts of ageism? Or do you have an elderly loved one who is battling discrimination? As a team of attorneys dedicated to the wellbeing of senior citizens and their families, The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm is here to fight for your rights and make sure you enjoy the quality of life you are entitled to! Don’t suffer from unfair and uninformed discrimination! Contact the law team who is experienced in the complexities of elder law and dedicated to your ultimate wellbeing! Call our Okeechobee office at 
863-261-8603, or send us a message online! We serve treasure coast seniors and those who love them.

The Estate, Trust, and Elder Law Firm, P.L.

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