Ageism Hurts - NYC Elder Abuse Center

“Ageism is the biggest obstacle to the detection and recognition of elder abuse.” 

-NYCEAC Medical Director, Mark Lachs, MD, MPH

What is Ageism?

Ageism is discrimination and stereotyping based on age. Among other destructive elements, ageism stigmatizes people of the same age group as sharing all the same negative qualities and possessing a diminished level of authority. This narrow view of aging thrives in the American youth-oriented culture, crippling our understanding of the healthy aging experience and the vibrant diversity within older generation of adults. Harmful prejudices about older adults are propagated at home and in the workplace, in the media and popular culture, and are deeply rooted in our language and history.

Where is Ageism?

Ageism is pernicious problem in our society that urgently requires a cultural transformation to recognize the true strength and capacity of all older adults. As Jane Fonda, the actress, states, “America’s aging population is not in decline, as the outdated paradigm of the arch of aging suggests, but rather entering what has come to be known as life’s third act.“ The NYC Elder Abuse Center believes that people of all ages have the right to live their entire lives, including “the third act”, with dignity and respect.

What is the Impact of Ageism?

The pervasiveness of these ageist frameworks is damaging to the dignity of older adults, and can have detrimental effects on their health and safety. For example, age prejudice can result in older people experiencing diminished memory performance and a lessened ability to cope with stress, thereby increasing vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, In addition, devaluing older adults creates a society less inclined to protect vulnerable older people. Thus, ageism works against abuse prevention.  Dr. Mark Lachs, NYCEAC’s Medical Director, addresses the connections between ageism and elder abuse in a 2013 videoAge discrimination is perpetuating the growing epidemic of elder abuse. It’s time we combat ageism to stop elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

NYC Elder Abuse Center’s Initiatives to Counter Ageism

NYCEAC’s core values guide our work and are ageist-free. They speak of respect for older adults, a concern for keeping older adults safe and free from harm, and support a person-centered approach to service.

Our multidisciplinary teams are a person-centered response to elder abuse, neglect and exploitation.

Our Risk and Resiliency Internship Project aims to educate undergraduate students about elder abuse and the value of older adults. Hear directly from our 2013 and 2014 interns by reading our blogs entitled Cultivating New Elder Justice Professionals: The Risk & Resiliency Internship Project and Older Adults Inspire Undergrads to Pursue Elder Justice.

NYCEAC mobilized our online community and pushed back against ageism by launching our first-ever online campaign:  “14 Days of Thanks” Campaign to Honor Older Adults.  This campaign shined a light on the value of older adults through pictures and moving testimonies.  

We create blogs and podcasts that explore the connection between ageism and elder justice and include:

  • Ageism, Elder Justice & The Legacy Project: In this podcast, Dr. Pillemer draws on his years of work in the fields of aging and elder abuse to illustrate the severity of ageism in our society, point to ways ageism holds back our attempts to create elder justice and describe how his Legacy Project can be used to prevent ageism.
  • Elder Justice Advocacy: Where We Have Been & Where We Are Going: This blog points to ageism as the most important reason for the lack of recognition of elder abuse and highlights that ageism is at the heart of many cases of elder abuse, but also plays a large role in the lack of a policy and public response to this epidemic.
  • The NYS Adult Abuse Training Institute 2013: Reflections from a New Attendee: This blog features NYCEAC’s Sarah Dion’s reflection on the 2013 New York State Adult Abuse Training Institute (AATI), which included a session presented by Ashton Applewhite in which she highlighted the multifaceted and detrimental impact ageism and disbalism has on the vulnerable clients served by AATI attendees.

Click here to access a list of additional ageism related resources. We want to continue the dialogue about ageism and elder justice with you! Find us on FacebookTwitter & LinkedIn and sign up for our eNewsletter and Elder Justice Dispatch!

*Ageism Hurts graphic created by Nancy Oatts;