What comes to mind when you think of someone who is 65 years old and over?
Do you think of a little old lady baking cookies or a grumpy old man shaking his cane while yelling at children? Think about how often you talk to people over 65 who are not your own grandparents. In America, we live in an age-segregated society and have come to regard much of the negative perceptions of aging as natural, inevitable and unproblematic. Many young adults believe adults in their 70s, 80s and 90s+ are ineffective, dependent, lonely, angry, disabled, in poor health, and less physically active than young adults. These stereotypes, however, remain far from the actual lived experience of many aging adults. Although the body does change over time, many adults are still able to maintain independent lifestyles. Understandings of age are defined through larger social and cultural values, definitions, and perceptions. Aging is dynamic and there are a variety of ways people experience aging. Instead of thinking about older adults as one collective group of “old people,” begin to think about each as an individual.


Ageism is stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. There are three connected elements of prejudicial attitudes: attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process. Even though ageism can be used to describe discrimination against adolescents and children, like ignoring their ideas because they are too young or behaving in certain ways because of their age, this term is more common against older people. An example of this is called elder abuse. This can be financial exploitation, physical harm, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse of an older person. It can also include people who are being neglected.

Elders who are abused are twice as likely to be hospitalized and four times as likely to go into nursing homes. Even though 36% of nursing homes have been in violation of elderly abuse laws, 68% of their adult children or their spouse commit abuse too. Warning signs can include, but are not limited to: frequent arguments or tension between the caregiver and the elderly person, and changes in personality or behavior of the elder. Elder abuse can be prevented – anyone who witnesses the warning signs should report it to Adult Protective Services or the police. On World Elder Abuse day, communities all over sponsor events to build awareness on the growing and tragic issue of elder abuse.

Did you know?

  • The total elderly population (people aged 65 and older) of 40 million people is 13% of the total US population. This number will double by the year 2050.
  • The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states nursing home patients, on average, receive a half-hour of care per day from a registered nurse, plus 38 minutes from a licensed practical nurse, and two hours and 18 minutes from a nurse’s aide. That is a total of 3.5 hours every 24 hours.
    The majority of nursing home residents never have visitors; these seniors spend their remaining years in loneliness and isolation.
  • 58% of elder abuse cases reported pertain to neglect.
  • Even though the stereotype of the elderly is that they are all sick, over 76% of them rated their health as good, very good, or excellent.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. It is unlawful to discriminate against a person on any term, condition, hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, and benefits based on age.

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