Do you notice age discrimination in your nursing home?

This digital article based on Swedish conditions is computer translated. Hopefully we can inspire people from other countries.

Age discrimination is a serious problem that affects older people on many levels. It undermines their rights, dignity and well-being. It is important to combat and prevent age discrimination through awareness, education and legislation to ensure that older people are treated fairly and with respect in all contexts. All ages deserve equal opportunities and respect, and the fight against age discrimination is an important part of creating a fair and inclusive society for all.

Foto-Anna-Britta Magnusson_Mostphotos

Age discrimination and its impact on the elderly

Age discrimination is a global problem that affects people of all ages, but it particularly affects older people in different ways. It involves discriminating or treating someone negatively because of their age, which can have serious consequences for the elderly and their well-being.

I read a post on LinkedIn where a woman discovered that the neighbor who turned 75 had problems with the TV subscription. She had had it for five days. She had tried to reach the TV provider but it was impossible. The woman tried to help her neighbours, but as she lacked both a mobile bank ID and an email address, it was not possible to get in touch with the operator.

Technological development risks discriminating

Many elderly people do not have access to either a mobile bank ID or email. If they have them, they are totally dependent on relatives to manage them. This means that their entire finances are exposed as they are forced to hand over passwords and login details to relatives in order to manage the technology.

Age discrimination can take many different forms. After Covid-19, we have received reports of condominium associations that did not invite "elderly" to joint activities so that they do not get infected. In that case, it is about some form of guardianship where someone believes that the older person is incapable of making decisions.

Age discrimination is one of the seven grounds of discrimination. Most often, the focus is on discrimination in working life. There is discrimination outside of working life as well.

In healthcare, there are situations where older people do not receive equal treatment to younger people in healthcare. It may be about which drugs are prescribed or the possibility of seeing a psychiatrist. It happens that medical conditions are not investigated properly.

In many countries, age discrimination is prohibited in healthcare, but healthcare acts as if differential treatment that has a "legitimate purpose" is permitted. This type of discrimination mainly affects older women.

There is also discrimination within the group of older people where those with less education often receive worse care or have more difficulty choosing how they receive their care.

Another type of age discrimination is when people address older people as if they were a child.

At the same time, we are dealing with adults with their own responsibilities. By making it possible to learn how to handle the new technology, older people can be given the conditions to maintain their independence. The focus must be to help our elderly solve "digital problems" in their everyday lives based on their own individual needs. Not having the opportunity to fully participate in society certainly gives a feeling of exclusion, which in turn leads to resignation and a poorer quality of life in the longer term.

It is not easy to keep track of codes and other things when memory fails. As well as those of us who work to provide support for the elderly, as well as associations, authorities and companies that digitize, we have a shared responsibility to make it easier for people regardless of functional ability to live an independent life.

Ageism - discrimination due to age occurs in various areas of life

1. Working life
One of the most tangible forms of age discrimination takes place in the labor market. Older workers can often feel that they are not given the same opportunities as younger colleagues when it comes to hiring, promotion and even keeping their jobs. Age discrimination can lead to financial insecurity and a reduced sense of self-worth.

2. Healthcare
In healthcare, older people may encounter stereotypes and prejudices that can affect the quality and quantity of care they receive. This can lead to improper undertreatment or overtreatment, which in both cases is harmful to the health of the elderly.

3. Social Isolation
Age discrimination can lead to social isolation and loneliness. Older people may experience being marginalized or not included in society in the same way as younger people. This can have negative consequences for their mental health and well-being.

4. Confidence and self-esteem
Experiencing age discrimination can negatively affect an older person's self-confidence and self-esteem. They may begin to doubt their own ability and worth, which can lead to a downward spiral of diminished well-being.

5. Financial Vulnerability
Age discrimination can also affect the financial opportunities of older people. Many older people rely on pensions and social benefits, and if they are denied opportunities to work or receive lower wages because of their age, they can find themselves in financial vulnerability.

6. Lack of respect and dignity
Age discrimination can manifest itself in a lack of respect and dignity towards older people. They may be the subject of condescending comments or be ignored in contexts where their voice should be heard.

Reflection questions - discrimination
Care staff:
- Do you notice age discrimination in your work?
- In what way can you work to reduce the risk of or consequences of age discrimination for those who live in your unit?
- As a care professional, can you help the residents maintain independence when the environment becomes increasingly digital?

Manager, nurse, occupational therapist and physiotherapist:
- Are there structures in your accommodation that contribute to age discrimination?
- Do you have residents who are refused medical examination or specialist healthcare because they are older?
- Do you offer access to computers and other equipment that can contribute to the resident being able to take care of banking matters and other contacts with you?

Resident and next of kin:
- Do you see factors that contribute to you or your loved one being discriminated against?

Erland Olsson
Head nurse
Better care - every day

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