The Impact Of Ageism In Healthcare Essay


Discuss about the Impact of Ageism in Healthcare.



Butler first defined ageism in 1969 as the discrimination and stereotyping people because of their age. Ageism is the ultimate form of discrimination an individual will go through. Nobody is immune to ageism. Anybody who lives long enough will be subjected to this treatment regardless of gender. Ageism manifests itself in different ways, including negative attitude, and ageist humor just to mention a few. Therefore, the essay seeks to discuss on the theories that relate to ageist, the principles that govern clinical practice, the impact of ageist behavior to the older patients, and the possible solution to the problem of ageism.

Over View

Health care providers show forms of discrimination to older people. In most case, health care providers are reluctant to assist older people only to label them as disagreeable, inactive, dull, and economically burdensome (Kagan & Torres, 2015). Health care providers detach themselves from older people who are powerless and close to death. The negative and pessimistic views that health professionals have towards the older people have substantial negative impact on their health. A variety factors can be related to the rampant failure to advance the health care of this population. One of the factors is the fact that, health care providers have devoted much of their time to investigate problems that affect the younger population as they do to older people. Older people are more on medication than the younger people with the same condition are. In addition, the decline in the health care provision is that health care providers make referral decisions based on the age of the patient rather than the need. Finally, the decline in the health care provided to the older people is the lack of rehabilitation, training, and equipment to the sick, which worsens their condition (Steffen, 2012).


Stereotype Embodiment Theory

The theory proposes that a lifetime experience to cultural messages related to ageism results to an internalization of ageist behavior. According to the theory, once the cultural experience has been internalized, the behavior becomes part of the subconscious, implicit set of beliefs old people and old age. In this case, ones individual ages to that point where the stereotype of aging are self- relevant, they internalize the stereotypes which in turn trigger the physiological and behavioral responses that accomplish the “self- concept” of being old (Steffen, 2012).

According to the theory, individuals are vulnerable to the inculcation to the ageist pattern for the reason that, unlike the other forms of discrimination like sexism and racism, one is indoctrinated into a belief system at a time when it is not self- pertinent. Young children have been taught to hold ageist attitude, this is because, from a young age, they are exposed to the ageist paradigm before they even start experiencing it. Further, the theory states that the ageist concept is internalized to an extent that it is perceived to be part of the human development. For instance, from the point that young children learn that old people have health problems like hearing, they internalize the concept, and by the time, they get old and develop similar conditions, they assume that hearing loss is an accepted part of aging and not part of a disease process (Rogers, Thrasher, Miao, Boscardin, & Smith, 2015).

Stereotype Threat Theory

This is a theory of discrimination in response to the behavior of an individual. According to the theory, indefinite conditions revealing explicit stereotypes, people will act in such a way that fulfills the stereotypes regardless of the outcome. In most cases, the actions by these individuals are subconscious. In order for the condition of stereotype threat to meet, the following elements must be in place (Steffen, 2012). First, the individual must be in a place or situation where the stereotypes expected, for instance, in a hospital setup. Second, the individual (ageist must identify themselves with a stereotype group or grouping. Finally, the individual (ageist) must consider the idea that, the “others” who can be evaluators and observers who are in that situation recognize the individual as a member of the grouping. In the case, an ageist nurse will try to portray her ageist behavior when the people around them have the same perception on the issue of age (Palmore, 2015).


The principles that relate to ageism are the principles that guide nurses on how they should behave and treat older patients when providing health care services. The principles that relate to ageism are as discussed below.

Protection of the Public

This principle is important in regulating and protecting the safety, welfare, and health of the public. This is important while delivering care. The safety of the old people should be considered (Nolan, 2011).


The nurses need to be well educated in different levels, this is important as they can handle and have the skills to treat the older patients.

Ethical Decision Making

The nurses should uphold good standards ethically that are legal and professional. This is important for the doctor-patient relationship.


The nurses should be accountable for their action so as enhance the safety of the patient (Minichiello, Hawkes & Pitts, 2011).

The impact of Ageist Behavior on

An Older Patient

Ageism as an associate stigma infuses the soul and body of the patient that they accept being devalued. In cases where the ageist health care providers frequently label the older patient in negative ways, such as poor, lonely, senile, disabled, sad, and dependent, they come to adopt this negative definitions and myths associated with aging. In addition, ageism prompts older patients to think that any decline in their health is normal and is part of aging; this makes them become unreceptive members of the society. This helps in strengthening the beliefs of the society showing that the older populations are the practitioners of the vice as they admit to the stereotypes, which worsens their condition (Marcus & Fritzsche, 2016).

Older patients who have developed a positive attitude towards aging live up to 8.2 years longer as compared to those with a negative attitude on the issue of aging. In this case, it is evident that ageism has a negative impact on the health of older patients as it hinders them from seeing the benefits of aging. Therefore, older patients should understand that the health deteriorations associated with aging could be avoided by being active in their self- care. In addition, they should know that aging is not the time to lose their value but rather a time of growth, fulfillment, and development (Levy & Macdonald, 2016).

The Quality and Safety of Health Care for the Older Patients

Adult patients over the ages of 65 make clinical visits on average ten times annually, and just about eighty percent make clinical visits at least twice per year (Kydd & Fleming, 2015). These visits demonstrate the critical opportunity for the healthcare providers to improve the psychosocial and physical health of the older patients. However, the behavior of ageist health care professionals can affect how sensitively and accurately they differentiate the changes associated with aging and chronic illness. Ageism behavior can take the form of a health care provider dismissing an acute illness as a sign of old age or treating aging as a form of illness. In this case, ageism behavior among health professionals can be implicit or explicit (Kagan & Torres, 2015). Explicit ageism leads to uninteresting, frustrating, and less rewarding clinical outcome. The explicit behaviors are caused by the exposure of health care providers to older patients and the challenge involved in providing them with the required care. These factors have contributed to an under treatment of older patients due to the ageism behaviors. In addition, whether ageism is explicit or implicit, older patients are exposed to under or over-treatment by the ageist health care providers. Therefore, health care providers should be willing to offer quality and safe care to older patients despite their conditions. Further, health care providers should recognize both explicit and implicit ageist actions and attitudes. By doing so, they can adopt effective communication strategies to address the needs of older patients (Johnson & Mutchler, 2014).


The health care sector is not immune to the impact of ageism (Jin, 2010). Other than on older patients, the ageist behavior of nurses has a substantial impact on the colleagues in the health care setup. For instance, ageism behavior is frustrating to the entire health care system; this leads to a loss of reputation and trust of the nursing team by the public. Further, ageism behaviors can lead to failure in communication between the ageist and the now- ageists, which can lead to conflicts affecting the provision of a safe and quality of healthcare (Heidkamp, Mabe & DeGraaf, 2012).


Creating of homes

Older people are treated differently in health facilities as compared to young people with similar symptoms. In extreme cases, older people do not go through the needed treatment even when it is more likely to die from the illness as compared to younger people. In order to address this need in health care delivery, the government should work to create more are homes where older patients can be taken care of collectively (Eymard & Douglas, 2012). Other than providing medical aid to the older patients, it can also bring immense benefits to reduced medical costs. According to the World Health Organization, older patients are not involved inform medical research, this exempts them from receiving the quality of care needed. In this case, the health officials should not ignore the old population but they should encourage studies on medicines that are used to treat the old. Therefore, through care homes, the needs of the old people can easily be understood and met by the caregivers (Caswell, Pollock, Harwood & Porock, 2015).


One of the contributing factors to age discrimination is the traditional perception, which views aging as a continuous decline (Bibi & Nawaz, 2012). These perceptions hinder health providers from distinguishing between disease and aging. In most cases, health care providers dismiss the symptoms and complaints by older patients as they dismiss such illness to the normal process of aging. Such attitude from health care providers and the public is what contributes to the suffering of the age patients. In this case, the public and the health professionals should be educated on how they should handle the old people. This is in all areas such as in government places, health sectors.The old people should also be included in training and programs. The public’s assumptions about the old people should be managed (Winterstein, 2015). They should know that one does not die since they are old. While dealing with the elderly the main challenge will be changing people mindset on what old means. In the medical field, aging is an issue that needs to be addressed. People should change the mindset that once a person reaches 60 they should retire. This is often perverse, actually, this can improve their mental health (Bridges, 2012).

Summary and Conclusion

Ageism is a form of discrimination and stereotyping people because of their age. Ageism discrimination refers to the actions that are taken to limit or deny people opportunities based on their age. This discrimination can either be institutional and personal level. On a more personal level, the person is discriminated from taking particular activities due to their age. On an institutional level, policies and regulations limit people from getting opportunities of certain ages and deny them to others. Discrimination based on ageism is based on employment and health sectors. For instance, in medicine, older patients are treated differently from the younger people. In most cases, older patients receive less attention and treatment from nurses. Numerous factors contribute to ageism in the health care system. First, the ageist behaviors where they perceive old age as a process of decline, this inhibits them from differentiating between disease and aging. Second, inadequate representation of the older population in medical research contributes to the failures to meet their medical needs. In this case, the major challenges in ageism are finding principles that can guide and address aging and counter ageism. Therefore, in order to address the problem of ageism in the health care, inclusive measures and policies should be put in place to support the needs of an old person; this is to ensure quality and safe health care delivery by the health care providers.


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