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October 2021

Do You Experience Everyday Ageism?

K-mitch-hodge-r3IE4JJLrFk-unsplashEveryday ageism is prevalent in the lives of older adults, as evidenced in research conducted by the University of Michigan National Poll on Aging. The poll, conducted in December 2019, examined older adults' experiences with forms of everyday ageism categorized into three groups: (1) exposure to ageist messages, (2) ageism in interpersonal interactions, and (3) internalized ageism (personally held beliefs about aging and older people). Overall, 82% of older adults reported regularly experiencing at least one form of everyday ageism in their day-to-day lives.

Two in three older adults (65%) reported exposure to ageist messages in their day-to-day lives. This included often or sometimes hearing, seeing, and/or reading jokes about old age, aging, or older people (61%) or hearing, seeing, and/or reading things suggesting that older adults and aging are unattractive or undesirable (38%).

Nearly half of older adults (45%) reported experiencing ageism in their interpersonal interactions. In addition, 36% of adults age 50–80 endorsed at least one form of internalized ageism based on their agreement that feeling lonely (29%) or feeling depressed, sad, or worried (26%) are a normal part of getting older. Older adults who reported experiencing three or more forms of everyday ageism in their day-to-day lives had worse physical and mental health than those who reported fewer forms of ageism. Older adults who experienced more forms of ageism were also more likely to have a chronic health condition such as diabetes or heart disease than those reporting fewer forms.

On the plus side, the majority of poll respondents agreed that they feel more comfortable being themselves as they have gotten older (88%) and that they have a strong sense of purpose (80%). About two in three older adults said that they agree that as they have gotten older, their feelings about aging have become more positive (67%) and that their life is better than they thought it would be (65%). Overall, the vast majority of older adults (94%) agreed with at least one of these four positive views on aging and 51% agreed with all four statements. The good news is, regardless of commonly experienced everyday ageism, older adults have a largely positive perspective on aging. Still, that points to a disturbing disconnect between how society views aging and older adults' perception of aging.

If you're anything like the 50-to-80 age group respondents in this poll, you too have almost certainly experienced some form of everyday ageism. It may be a relatively harmless yet irritating experience, such as being called a disrespectful name by a retail store clerk or waiter. It may be exposure to a derogatory ad that degrades older people. Or it could be a lot more serious -- like routinely being discriminated against in the workplace because of your age. It is essential that we Boomers don't let any such experiences with ageism define who we are or what we believe about ourselves.

We can probably all agree with the conclusion of the researchers at the National Poll on Aging:

"Ageism is a product of American culture that should be acknowledged, discussed, and addressed. Increased consideration of how negative stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination toward older people affect responses to major public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic could present a key opportunity to challenge assumptions that contribute to ageism. Addressing everyday ageism may have far-reaching benefits for the health and well-being of older adults." is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash



New Book Shows How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

"I Know I Should, But..."

Brett-jordan-vFGKWON91Bc-unsplashThere is an interesting human trait in many of us, and it seems to grow more pronounced as we age. It's the idea of Intention vs. Action, which I like to think of as "I know I should, but..." A few examples related to Boomers may be appropriate to illustrate the concept.

Recently, financial services firm Edward Jones updated its landmark study, "The Four Pillars of the New Retirement." In reporting the results, the firm stated the following (with my parenthetical editorial comments in italics):

...the impacts of the pandemic resulted in nearly 50 million Americans halting or reducing contributions to retirement savings. An additional 38 million withdrew money from retirement savings. Yet at the same time, retirement savings boosted for others as 59 million Americans began contributing more to their retirement savings. (It appears that the pandemic actually closed the gap between intention and action for those who knew they should contribute more to retirement but didn't do it until an extraordinary event made them realize they should.)

The study illuminated the gap between intention and action as a majority of Americans ages 50+ (71%) believe having a will in place is the most important action to take before someone dies, yet only 49% actually have a will. Further, only 19% of adults 50+ have all three essential end-of-life documents in place: a will, health care directive/living will and designated power of attorney. (Hundreds of thousands of deaths from a virus make you think about your mortality. Still, it is fascinating and a bit disconcerting that a large majority of Boomers know they need a will, yet less than half of them actually have one.)

I think it is safe to say this same Intention vs. Action mentality is pervasive in our daily lives. Maybe some of these statements will resonate with you:

  • "I know I should eat healthier, but it's a pain in the neck to change my diet right now."
  • "I know I should exercise more, but I'm just too busy (or too tired, or whatever)."
  • "I know I should get rid of all that junk in the basement (or attic, or wherever), but I'll get around to it some day."

I'm sure you can think of many other examples. The idea is that our intentions may be noble, but our execution leaves something to be desired. You could characterize this as procrastination or perhaps negative inertia. It's probably the same feeling you have when you ponder that chore we all dread -- doing your taxes by April 15. Personally, I'm reminded of a silly little round piece of wood I saw in a joke shop years ago with words stamped on it that read, "Round Tuit."

At the risk of sounding preachy, Boomers need to reckon with the fact that we are in the second half of our lives -- a time when action on any number of things becomes more important than it was when we were younger. I truly believe all of us have good intentions. The real question is whether we have the will to convert our good intentions into actions... before we run out of time. is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash



New Book Shows How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"

Who Will Take Care of Us?

Georg-arthur-pflueger-eO_JhqabBY0-unsplashIn a previous post, I wrote about the popularity of "aging in place" and discussed why, in some cases, it isn't always a great alternative for aging Boomers. A recent article in The New York Times discusses some of the financial challenges and addresses in general the costs associated with growing older. The article cites a 2019 study from the federal Department of Health and Human Studies "found that over their lifetimes, about 70 percent of older adults will need help from family caregivers or paid aides or some combination, in their own homes or in long-term care facilities." A more recent study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College examined "both intensity and duration — how much help older Americans will need and for how long." The results indicated the following:

"...Seventeen percent of 65-year-olds will need no long-term care. Almost one-quarter will develop severe needs, requiring many hours of help for more than three years.
   Most older people will fall between those poles, with 22 percent having only minimal needs. The largest group, 38 percent, can expect moderate needs — like support while they recover from a heart attack, after which they can again function independently."

Another recent article in The New York Times cites a 2018 AARP survey that indicated "76 percent of those ages 50 and older said they preferred to remain in their current residence as they age." The article discusses the plight of home care aides :

"The ranks of home care aides are expected to grow by more than those of any other job in the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s also among the lowest paying occupations on the list.
  Nearly one in five aides lives below the poverty line. In six states, the average hourly wage for home care aides is less than $11, and nationally, the median pay has increased just $1.75 an hour over the last decade, when adjusted for inflation."

Considering the information above, Boomers are headed for a long-term healthcare reckoning. If we want to age in place, the older we get, the more likely we will have to get help from family members, which is not always possible, or home care aides. These workers are highly stressed out right now. In the current pandemic, home care aides are one of the more vulnerable groups, not just because of potential exposure to the virus but also because of their low economic status. In The Times article, one of those aides made an important point:

“We should be able to take care of our own families while providing care for other families,” said Lilieth Clacken, a 61-year-old home health aide and member of the 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East union. “The work is undervalued and underpaid.”

Some innovative programs, such as the "Aging Well Support Program" at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, could make a difference to Boomers who want to age in place. It offers "Community Health Screenings, Caregiver Workshops, and programs to support mental and physical wellness. In addition, we offer Individualized Aging Support Services to provide ongoing Care Coordination for concerns related to memory, fall risk, nutrition, and behavioral health." We need more helpful programs like this to limit the risks and improve health outcomes for aging Boomers.

The other side of the equation is long-term care facilities, such as an assisted living facility. If we choose this alternative over aging in place, we will inevitably pay a high monthly fee (and in some cases an entry fee) to be cared for around the clock. Even in these facilities, however, care aides are poorly compensated in terms of salary and benefits.

It's a sad testament to overall national priorities that home care aides and aides at long-term care facilities are at the lowest end of the pay scale -- as are teachers and social services professionals. There is also currently no compensation available to family members for taking care of older relatives. It certainly makes it all the more challenging to answer the question, "Who will take care of us?" is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash



New Book Shows How World War II Helped Launch "Boomer Brands"