Ageism among health care professionals

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Ageism among Health Care Professionals

Ageism among Health Care Professionals

Ageism among Health Care Professionals


The increase in number of aging people in the recent years has increased the demand for healthcare. World Health organization claimed that presently there are over 800 million people aged (Yasamy et al. 2013, p. 4). The studies also project this number to more than 2 billion elderly people by 2050. Yasamy et al. (2013, p. 4) posited that the situation is attributed to the fact that individuals of 60 years are now likely to live extra 18 and half to 21.6 years. However, as more elderly people seeking healthcare services, healthcare professional have considered them a burden. In fact, stereotypes have been created about them leading to a form of discrimination often referred to as ageism. Oresanya, Lyons and Finlayson (2014, p. 2111) opined that despite various countries creating different funds and insurance schemes to improve healthcare access to older people such approaches have never guaranteed them quality care and treatment. Therefore, this paper will critically analyze ageism among health care professionals. The paper will review various texts, readings and journal articles to discuss and critique the topic, and present possible strategies to support a change in the culture or practice.

Literature Review

Definitions of ageism and overview of Ageism

Over the years, several scholars and researchers have offered different definitions of ageism which may create confusion. However, it’s the wording which makes the definition be accepted globally and used for references. According to Nelson (2011, p. 31), ageism is the stereotyping and the discrimination directed towards individuals because of their old age. Yasamy et al., (2013, p. 4) pointed out that the United Nations often applies 60 years age and above as a benchmark for determining old age. On the other hand, several high-income nations use 65 year age as the benchmark for determining older people and even used to classify people who are eligible for social security benefits for the old people. However, Makris et al. (2015, p. 13 claimed that ageism is much wider than just discrimination in reference to age. He went ahead to define ageism as that strongly entrenched negative beliefs concerning older individuals and aging process that could lead to discrimination. However, according to Azulai (2014, p.3), the most accepted definition of ageism is the discrimination of older individuals on the basis that aging process turns them less attractive, less productive and intelligent among other characteristics. Azulai (2014, p.3) claimed stereotype and discrimination are the outcome of how people interpret the information and perceives the world. However, the perception has been found to rise automatically which then leads to attitude and behavior towards different people. With number of elderly people increasing across the globe as projected by world Health organization, ageism is likely to increase.

Ageism among Health Care Professionals

Eymard and Douglas (2012, p.26) claimed that ageism is increasing becoming prevalent among healthcare professional and even affecting the quality of healthcare the elderly people receives. Research claim that many healthcare professionals hold negative attitude and behavior towards elderly people as result of stereotypes they have been exposed. Stereotypes generally portray older people as grumpy, dependent, lonely crabby, stubborn, rude, meddlesome, have impaired memory, inactive and senile (Eymard & Douglas, 2012, p. 26). The stereotype and discrimination is on the increase as a result of information and printing press in the 21st century. The discriminatory attitude displayed by healthcare professionals usually serve as a hurdle to creating efficient, therapeutic relations with those elderly patients.

Eymard and Douglas (2012, p. 26) argued that ageism creates fear of aging and allows the application of the chronological age to categorize individuals who could be denied opportunities and resources. Davis et al. (2011, p.857) projected that older people of 65 years and above visits the doctors 12 times a year on average, and almost 80% visit primary clinician twice a year on average. Such visitations characterize vital opportunities for the healthcare professionals to promote and support psychosocial and physical health, and the elderly patients anticipate counseling, which is tailored for their practical status, care preferences and life expectancy. Healthcare professionals’ skills and the attitudes concerning aging can impact how sensitively and accurately they differentiate common changes linked with process of aging from the chronic disease and acute illness. Eymard and Douglas (2012, p.26) argued that ageism sometimes manifest itself where the healthcare professional dismisses treatable disease as a characteristic of the old age, or even treating anticipated changes which take place in older people as if they are diseases.

However, the Azulai (2014, p. 3) has also criticized several researches which only concentrate on negative stereotypes and fails to focus on the positive ones. The scholar claimed that there are also positive benefits of ageism among healthcare professionals. For instance, he pointed out that ageism results in pro-social advantage to amenity provisions, social security benefits, nursing homes for the elderly and health insurance fund for the elderly and health membership among others (Azulai 2014, p. 3). Many elderly people have used such stereotype to their advantage hence gaining from treatment of their persistent diseases. Many elderly people have used such stereotype to their advantage, hence gaining from treatment of their persistent diseases. The research shows that when professional healthcare providers with positive stereotypes are likely to provide quality healthcare. Similarly, positive perception is communicated to through good attitude and behaviors, the older patient will not only be motivated to seek medical services but also to have positive attitude that they will get well after treatment. Other studies particularly by Levy et al. (2012, p. 1972) has found out that positive perceptions held by older people are greatly correlated to positive functional health after sometimes.

Makris et al. (2015, p. 3) faulted the current research for focusing mostly on healthcare professionals while giving regards to older patients’ side. In their research, they claim that when healthcare professionals harbor ageist attitude, such feeling is transferred to the patients who will eventually exhibit negative attitude about aging. Makris et al. (2015, p.3) claimed that older adults who posses negative perception concerning aging are greatly in terms of their health. Nelson (2011, p. 37) has contributed this topic by asserting that within the US, ageism has been institutionalized implying that the society accepts and tolerates stereotyping and discrimination of the older people. As healthcare industry policies mirror societal poor attitudes, persistent age stigmatization leads to the structural ageism. it make older people to believe fatigue, pain, depressed mood, decreased libido and dependency on others are part of aging process hence will not seek healthcare.

How reduce Ageism among Health Care Professionals

Stereotype has been found as the major contributor of ageism. Stereotype leads to negative attitude older people, hence increase in ageism among healthcare professional. Despite the increase of ageism, studies shows that the vice can actually be mitigated. Boswell (2015, p. 6) claims contended that curbing effects of ageism entails two things including changing attitudes towards the older people and reducing the anxieties regarding peoples’ aging process. Numerous researches scholars regard education as the critical factor which can be used to influence healthcare practitioners’ attitudes towards older people (Boswell 2015, p. 6). The education can be imparted from healthcare practitioners’ perspective and reminding them that they will also attain old age at some point. Supporting positive attitude needs that healthcare professional learn to appreciate and recognize heterogeneity of the older people. Petersen and Warburton (2012, p.64) postulated that this happens when healthcare professionals expose themselves to older people outside hospital environment and interact with them so as to understand that ageism is not one of the occupational hazards within their profession. Furthermore, education should inform can be used to their advantage for getting subsidized but quality healthcare. Some research argued that health ministry should allocate funds to support academic departments to train geriatrics on how to genuinely care for older adults (Ouchida & Lachs 2015).


Whilst ageism regrettably is still present among healthcare professionals and healthcare systems, there are several interventions in progress which be used to reduce it. The paper has found out that negative attitude regarding older people by health professionals have lead to increase in ageism. The situation leads to poor care of older people as most healthcare professional perceives some diseases as normal with old age hence no proper diagnostic. On the other hand, ageism has created a perception among older people some disease comes as result of old age leading to stigmatization. However, healthcare experts claim that ageism can be eliminated and profess need more extensive approaches. The paper has recommended education and funding of geriatrics at medical schools.


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