The number of Americans 60 and older is growing, but society still isn’t embracing the aging population. Whether being up against the “old geezer” stereotypes or trying to obtain equal standing in the workplace, those who are 60 or older may all too often find themselves the victims of ageism. Ageism is an issue in our society and studies have found that there are negative effects of ageism as it relates to brain health. We explore the topic of ageism more in this article.
What Is Ageism?
Ageism is a prejudice against older people and, just as with any prejudice, it creates serious issues in society. In America, a great value is placed on being young, beautiful, healthy and rich. Aging is seen as a process that takes away the ability to achieve these coveted things. Therefore, getting older is seen as a debilitating process.
Is Ageism A Issue?
In one study, 70 percent of older Americans said they had been insulted or mistreated because of their age. This can be seen in various ways:
- Being called honey or sweetie
- Being talked over in a conversation
- Being thought of as crabby
- Being ignored
- Having someone rush around you as if you are too slow
- Being mocked or treated as a child
- Having someone do something for you that you are capable of doing
Negative Impacts Of Ageism
The negative impact of ageism has been well-documented. The effects can lead to the following:
- Higher risk of heart disease
- Older people who feel they are a burden to others see their lives as less valuable, increasing their risk of isolation and depression.
- Ageism can cause a damaging cycle of marginalization which leads to low self-esteem, and in turn accelerates withdrawal and physical decline.
A study from Yale showed that negative beliefs about aging may be linked to brain changes related to Alzheimer’s disease – specifically, people who had more negative thoughts about aging had a significantly greater number of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, two conditions associated with Alzheimer’s.
Not only are negative stereotypes hurtful to older people, but they may even shorten their lives, a longitudinal study of 660 people 50 years and older, found that those with more positive self-perceptions of aging lived longer than those with negative self-perceptions of aging.
Positive Attitude & Benefits To Aging
People’s positive beliefs about and attitudes toward the elderly appear to boost their mental health. Research has found that older adults exposed to positive stereotypes have significantly better memory and balance, whereas negative self-perceptions contributed to worse memory and feelings of worthlessness.
A Yale study showed that positive attitudes about aging could extend one’s life by 7-1/2 years – a greater lifespan gain than from low cholesterol, low blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, or even being a nonsmoker.
The reality is that the majority of seniors are self-sufficient, middle-class consumers with more assets than most young people, and the time and talent to offer society.
Ashton Applegate talks about ageism in this Ted Talk. She states that most people are happiest in the beginning and end of their life. This attitude is a function of how the process of aging affects the brain but this can be taken away if someone experiences ageism.
Orchard at Brookhaven is a Senior Living Community in Atlanta that is committed to exploring all ways of supporting healthy living as we age. Please contact us for more information about our community or to schedule a tour.