Ageism refers to discrimination against older persons. It may not appear apparent that this could, let alone should, happen in healthcare systems, but it regrettably does. This narrative review outlines 15 studies that looked at attitudes to ageing amongst nurses, doctors, psychologists, dentists, allied health, students and educators. Regrettably, all surveyed clinician groups were found to exhibit elements of ageism.
However, the reasons for this is where it gets interesting. There is the oft described concept that geriatric care is not a glamorous profession. However, a sizable number of the studies identified that many clinicians were ageist without even knowing it – with preformed concepts about what to expect in old age.
I recall when I started out medical training, I was told that a normal blood pressure was 100 plus your age. Today such a concept is laughable, but what isn’t so humorous is how many patients in the past have suffered simply because medicine hasn’t kept up with increasing age.
At the recent Loving Life in Late Life seminar, one 87 year old attendee stood up to bemoan the fact that all the advice she could find online regarding exercise regimes seemed to cut out at 75. Until health care professionals can learn to know how to respond to older adults, everyone will forever be playing catch-up.