Ageism in Healthcare

Topics: Old age, Gerontology, Ageism Pages: 19 (6741 words) Published: November 18, 2013

Age Related Healthcare Discrimination (Ageism) in Healthcare

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July 14, 2013

Age Related Healthcare Discrimination (Ageism) in Healthcare
While the “Greatest Generation” is a title often given to those Americans who lived and died during the era of the Great Depression and World War II, their offspring, the “Baby Boom” generation, significantly shaped and improved the American landscape as well if for no greater reason than the sheer number of people who make up this population (Steinhorn, 2006). Today, based predominantly on that very same reason, the baby boomer population is now making a very different, yet equally as profound impact on American society. More specifically, this impact is being made on the healthcare system of the US, and the discriminatory practice of “ageism” that older patients currently face.

The purpose of this paper is to explore, analyze, and evaluate both the practice of age discrimination in healthcare and the federal policy issues and efforts that are involved with it. The work begins by providing background information on the current demographics of the aging American population and forecasts for the impact this will likely have on the healthcare industry in the near future. It then transitions into a discussion on what ageism is, where its historical roots come from, and where it fits into the federal Fair Labor Act. A review of the literature is then presented, documenting the discrimination that elderly people are subjected to with regards to healthcare. The paper then explores the medical profession itself within this context, with a focus on examining the lack of geriatric training medical professionals receive and the limited number of existing programs designed to train these professionals in geriatrics. Attention is then turned to this issue from a public policy perspective, first by analyzing the current elderly healthcare discrimination policy in place at the federal level, and then by uncovering the federal, state, and local policy initiatives and other potential avenues available to address the impending crisis in healthcare discrimination. Finally, this work concludes by addressing the impact of ageism in healthcare on my own professional and personal development. Overview of Aging Population Demographics

In 2011, the elder statesmen of the baby boom generation hit age 65 (Federal Interagency Forum, 2012). This event highlights the dramatic changes currently taking place amongst the population demographics of the United States, namely the rapid growth of the older population that has been accelerated by the baby boomers (Federal Interagency Forum, 2012).

From a purely statistical standpoint, the figures on this shifting population are quite staggering. Today, there are more Americans who fall into the category of the ‘older population’ (those individuals 65-years-old or over) than ever before in the nation’s history (Brandon, 2012). By 2011, this older population had reached over 41-million people, marking an 18-percent increase from the number seen in 2000, and accounting for over 13-percent of the entire US population (Administration on Aging & Administration for Community Living [AOA & AOCL], 2012). While certain states and communities have experienced the growth of the elderly population more drastically than others, on the whole this population has expanded substantially across the entirety of the nation (Brandon, 2012). Not only are there more members of the older population, but they are living longer as well. Those reaching the age of 65 can now expect to an additional 19.2 years on average, with men living until an average age of 83 and women 85 (AOA & AOCL, 2012). On top of these drastic increases, today’s older population is also the most educated and racially diverse of its kind in US history (Federal Interagency Forum, 2012). Two other important trends worthy of note are the fact that...

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(AOA & AOCL, 2012)
(AOA & AOCL, 2012)
Source: AOA & AOCL, 2012

Figure 4: Marital Status of Persons Ages 65 and Older by
Age & Sex, 1960, 1980, 2000, and 2010
(Jacobsen et al., 2011)
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