Musings

Reasons for Optimism

Joe-hepburn-qr7rfIthbvc-unsplashLooking ahead to 2022, there may be a great deal of uncertainty for many Boomers. But as we age, some of us see glimmers of hope and maybe even reasons for optimism. One area that could be surprisingly bright is the job market. The "Great Resignation" we've experienced in the United States is creating a great reckoning for employers.

Tim Driver, CEO of RetirementJobs and founder of the Age-Friendly Institute, is someone who is particularly upbeat. He spoke with Chris Farrell, author of the book Unretirement, for an article on NextAvenue.org. Under Driver's leadership, RetirementJobs started a program called CAFE to help change negative stereotypes of older workers. CAFE (Certified Age Friendly Employer) recognizes companies that are among the best employers for the 50-plus worker.

 Seeking employees to fill millions of jobs, companies are not only re-evaluating their pay and benefit structures, they are taking a serious look at older workers. Driver believes there is now a compelling business argument for employers to hire Boomers. At the same time, there is a push for companies to embrace DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion). While DEI typically relates to race, gender and LGBTQ, Driver believes "Age may not be first on the list. But it's there." Driver also believes the trend of working from home is a mutual benefit to employers and older workers, who may be happy to work remotely, as well as on a part-time basis.

Another reason for optimism is the growing recognition that age discrimination has real consequences, and it must be addressed by society. Demographically, America is aging and, with it, the negative perception of older people is likely to change, even if it is gradually. One example of organizations that address this issue head on is Driver's Age-Friendly Institute, whose mission is to "harness what we learn when we listen to the voices of older adults to inform continuous age-friendly program improvement and accelerate enhanced quality of life and care for older adults." The Institute focuses on two broad areas: Elevating age-friendly solutions and fostering cross sector collaboration.

In researching information for blog posts, I have noticed a real uptick in numerous organizations, institutions and (thankfully) government agencies focusing more on age discrimination and the needs of the older population. It is also encouraging that more employers are paying attention to the Boomer demographic, even if it is because they are desperate to fill open positions. We will be far better off if everyone becomes "age-friendly" -- and there are reasons to be optimistic a societal shift is slowly happening.

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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


A Double Whammy

Screen Shot 2021-11-18 at 11.24.44 AMIn the numerous posts I've written about ageism, I tend to lump 50-plus men and women together. While ageism obviously applies to both genders, it is worth pointing out that there is a double whammy for women known as "gendered ageism."

In an excellent recent Forbes article, Bonnie Marcus writes that gendered ageism "is a growing concern for professional women." To validate that statement, Marcus, author of the book Not Done Yet!, collaborated on a research study that collected responses from 729 participants who ranged in age from 18 to 70+, with 65 percent of respondents from the U.S. and the remainder from Canada and Europe. It is well worth reading and considering all nine survey takeaways cited by Marcus, but I'll concentrate on three of them here, taken directly from the article:

  1. Gendered Ageism is Real – 80% of those surveyed experienced some form of gendered ageism. A third of all respondents (33%) felt they could not get a job or interview because of their age. The most common experiences were “feeling opinions were ignored” (47%), “seeing younger colleagues get attention” (42%) and “not being invited to key meetings” (35%).
  2. DEI is Not Making the Cut – When asked if their company’s DEI initiatives included gendered ageism, 77% responded that it was not included. Interestingly, 23% stated they did not know and 15% said their company did not have DEI initiatives. Public companies were more likely to have DEI, all but 3%, but only 23% of both public and private companies included gendered ageism. Almost a full third of private companies did not have DEI at all (30%). However, almost all respondents from both public and private companies (93% and 83% respectively) believed that more could be done to combat this prejudice.
  3. A No-Win Situation – Not Enough Money to Retire and Limited Prospects for Work – Gendered ageism has long term implications for retirement, with more than half of those surveyed reporting that they do not have enough money to retire and nearly all (95%) of those over 53 – including those 65-70 - stating that they want or need to keep working. Yet, more than a quarter 28% of women 59-65 thought their chances of continuing to work were “fair” or “poor”. The most common reason stated – “My company does not value older workers."

Just these three observations by Marcus are compelling enough to highlight the depth of gendered ageism in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the precarious nature of working women in the U.S. Millions of women were forced to quit their jobs to care for younger children because of inadequate daycare. That was one indignity women suffered. But another indignity made even worse by the pandemic was gendered ageism, which likely contributed to the increase in retirees.

In her article, Marcus notes that "many women 50+ are pushed to the sidelines and/or pushed out to make room for younger workers. Though this is also true for men, women experience this earlier. Once terminated, women find it much more challenging to get rehired at a time when may they lack the funds for retirement." Sadly, ageism in general seems to be a systemic problem -- and gendered ageism is a more insidious subset.

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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


"Where's the Beef?"

WherestheBeefIn 1984, a series of commercials for the burger chain, Wendy's, created a sensation. It resulted in a catchphrase that became so popular it was used in the Democratic presidential debate that year: Walter Mondale asked Gary Hart, "Where's the beef?"

As you'll see in the video below, three elderly ladies were featured in the ad, with Clara Peller asking the now immortal question. The commercial was admittedly humorous and playful, but it certainly did not portray seniors in the best light. 

Fast forward to today and we still experience ageism in advertising, as I wrote about in a previous blog post. I referenced an AARP article by AgeWave founder Ken Dychtwald. In the article, Dychtwald writes that "advertising is still far too often out of sync with the reality of today's older, more seasoned buyer." He quotes Chip Conley, founder of the Modern Elder Academy, who agrees: “Many ads are viewed by the older population as stereotypical and patronizing. Most advertisers receive a failing grade in their efforts to understand and relate to older adults.”

So now I want to ask marketers everywhere: When it comes to seniors, "Where's the beef?"

It's a sad fact that when marketers aren't making fun of seniors (which they often do), they are ignoring us. Big mistake.

A recent article on Entrepreneur.com cites data about the "silver economy," a phrase the European Parliament used in 2015, that means “the sum of all economic activity that serve the needs of people aged 50 and over, including the products and services they purchase directly and the further economic activity this spending generates.”

This data from The Brookings Institute should be reason enough for marketers to sit up and pay attention to the silver economy: 

"...seniors are significant players in the economy: There are currently 750 million seniors in the world, and by 2030, there will be one billion. Seniors in the consumer class are expected to grow by as much as 66% and are the wealthiest age group in the world (alongside older professionals aged 45-64 years). The number of seniors grows by 3.2% every year compared to an overall population growth rate of 0.8%."

Entrepreneur.com laments, "65-plus is often a discarded demographic." As a 65-plus Boomer who retired from the marketing profession, I'm amazed and perturbed that leading brands and their agencies simply do not fathom that we Boomers are equivalent to a prime A1 cut of beef as a target demographic. Marketers, here's some news for you: WE BUY STUFF! Not only that, research shows the Boomer consumer is discerning, willing to consider different products, open to change and tech savvy. You and I know it. I wish marketers understood it too. Hey, marketers, the answer to the question, "Where's the beef?" is RIGHT HERE. It's not the young 'uns, it's the Boomer audience!

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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


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."

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

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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.

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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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?"

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

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


Numbers Don't Lie

Business-2253639_1920There are two COVID-inspired phrases that have been kicking around of late: "The Great Resignation" and "The Great Retirement." The two phrases are inter-related but very different.

"The Great Resignation" generally refers to workers who have exited the workforce, almost entirely by choice, during the pandemic. The reasons for resigning from a job are varied: Some workers are simply fed up with low wages, others (mostly women) cite issues with child care, others don't like menial work, and still others may not want to return to a physical workplace after working remotely from home. Whatever the reasons, the outcome is the same: American workers have left traditional work in droves, accounting for millions of open jobs and "Help Wanted" signs everywhere.

"The Great Retirement" overlaps with "The Great Resignation" in the sense that a considerable percentage of older workers may have decided that the pandemic was the right time to resign from their jobs. Rather than continue to work in traditional jobs, these older workers chose a number of different paths, such as part-time work, freelance work or "gig" assignments, volunteer work or some combination thereof. Some older workers may have decided to stop working altogether and retire.

About a year ago (August 2020), the Schwartz Center for Economic Analysis at the New School looked at some numbers and they turned out to be pretty astonishing:

  • From March through June 2020, 2.9 million workers ages 55-70 left the labor force, 50 percent more than the 1.9 million older workers who left the labor force three months after the Great Recession began in 2007.
  • Of the 2.9 million older workers who left the labor force, the majority (2.4 million) lost their jobs between March and June. The other 500,000 were already unemployed in March.
  • Between March and June 2020, 38 percent of unemployed older Americans gave up looking for work and left the labor force.

According to the Schwartz Center, "Several indicators show 2.9 million older workers who exited the labor force are unlikely to return. ...Under normal economic conditions, older workers who leave the labor force due to layoff are unlikely to re-enter the job market and face having to retire earlier than planned. ...Additionally, older workers who lose their job take nearly twice as long to find a new job compared to young workers. Even if jobless older workers find a new job, they can expect their new wages to be 23-41% less than their previous earnings."

One year later, in August 2021, an article by Tammy La Gorce in The New York Times confirmed that things haven't changed much for these older workers. La Gorce writes that "retiring during the pandemic has inflicted two traumas...most felt they were forced out of work before they wanted to go" and the majority "were financially unprepared." Teresa Ghilarducci, a professor of economics and policy analysis at the New School for Social Research, told La Gorce, “A lot of people were pushed out of their jobs... It used to be that employers would let the ones they just hired go first in a recession, but this time older people who have been in their jobs the longest have been hit hardest.”

So "The Great Retirement" may turn out to be not-so-great for millions of older workers who didn't intend to retire at all. Instead, many have been involuntarily retired from a job they intended -- and needed -- to keep. The obvious reason may have been the pandemic, but the less obvious reason was that some employers used the pandemic as cover to pare down their employee ranks. The most vulnerable workers, the older ones, were the first to be let go. Numbers don't lie.

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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


Not So Funny

Dan-cook-MCauAnBJeig-unsplashI cheered when I read well-known aging expert Ken Dychtwald's recent article for AARP entitled "Ageism Is Alive and Well in Advertising." In it, Dychtwald uses several excellent examples of "Ageist" vs. "Respectful" ads, largely created by marketing agencies for their clients. As you can intuit, the "Ageist" examples debase seniors in a variety of ways, often ridiculing their age and negatively portraying them. This is not an occasional transgression -- it is an all-too-common practice among ad agencies, typically peopled by younger generations, who routinely make fun of the 50-plus crowd. I know, because for a time I worked in a large ad agency where I was clearly an elder statesman in my fifties.

In the article, Dychtwald writes that "advertising is still far too often out of sync with the reality of today's older, more seasoned buyer." He quotes Chip Conley, founder of the Modern Elder Academy, who agrees: “Many ads are viewed by the older population as stereotypical and patronizing. Most advertisers receive a failing grade in their efforts to understand and relate to older adults.”

As Dychtwald cites in his article, ageism in advertising is not a wise marketing strategy, because the 55-plus audience controls 70 percent of all personal wealth in the United States, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve. What's more Boomers resent it -- in a 2121 AARP survey, 62 percent of consumers age 50-plus agreed with the statement, "I wish ads had more realistic images of people my age." Nearly half (47 percent) agreed that "ads of people my age reinforce outdated stereotypes." That doesn't bode well for advertisers who continue to propagate ads that bash Boomers.

I wrote about this very issue exactly two years ago in my post, "Marketing the Old Age Myth:"

As a retired marketing professional, it is especially painful for me to see how today's marketers characterize older Americans. As I watch television or flip through magazines, I notice ads that incessantly pitch medications to the elderly, poke fun at aging or portray anyone with gray hair as a doddering, incompetent sedentary fool.

Here we are two years later and, as Dychtwald points out, things haven't gotten all that much better. Thankfully, Dychtwald writes, there are some marketers who are more enlightened today and treat seniors with respect. But not enough of them do so. That isn't just bad for the advertising business, it's bad for our society in general. 

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

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


Trend Awareness for Boomers

Direction-1033278_1920Boomers contemplating retirement (or some version of it) need to be aware of various trends that might shape their decisions about working, finances, health and even where they live. Catherine Siskos, editor of Kiplinger's Retirement Report, discusses five key trends in a special section inserted into THE WEEK (Sept. 10 - 17, 2021). These trends are part of an article that addresses how this decade is unfolding and includes some forward-looking financial investment possibilities. This special section is well worth reading.

Here are the five trends affecting retirement that Siskos discusses in some detail:

  1. "Flexible work, at a price." The reality is that older workers may be willing to trade a higher salary for flexible work hours. Working part-time or on a contract basis could be a desirable if less lucrative alternative to permanent, full-time employment.
  2. "Shrinking benefits." Social Security benefits risk being reduced in the future because of a current projection that the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2034. The age for claiming full retirement benefits continues to go up, with those born 1960 or later affected the most. In addition, claiming Social Security benefits too early results in a permanent cut to your monthly benefit payment.
  3. "Semi-privatized Medicare." Siskos writes that Medicare "could run short of money as early as 2026." Congress is struggling to come up with a solution.
  4. "A tech revolution in care." Advances such as smart home technology, remote monitoring, and assists to health care by Artificial Intelligence could help reduce health care costs and increase the efficiency of health care providers and caregivers.
  5. "Climate disruption." Retirees who are thinking about where to live in their older years need to carefully consider the impact of climate change. For example, the popularity of the South and West as retirement destinations needs to be balanced against the effects of global warming.

It is somewhat disconcerting to realize that we have little direct control over these trends, except perhaps for the first one. However, wise Boomers can assess their own situations and determine how best to deal with each trend. For example:

  • With the aid of your financial adviser, you can come up with a plan that reduces expenses and increases income to potentially offset the impact of a cut in Social Security. This might include some combination of part-time work, budget tightening, reviewing your investment strategy and planning to draw down your IRA/retirement savings at the appropriate time.
  • With the likelihood that health care costs could play a significant role in your budget, you may need to consider supplemental insurance to Medicare and/or long-term care insurance. You might also consider looking into the cost of assisted living or continuing care retirement communities to determine if they are feasible future options.
  • When it comes to "climate disruption," it would be smart to realistically evaluate where you live now and where you may want to live in the future. While climate is just one factor in remaining in your current home or relocating, it is increasingly important.

Now is the time for Boomers to take the necessary steps to protect their retirement/"rewirement" years.

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

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

 


Demanding the Treatment We Deserve

Hospital-1636334_1920

I've often written about age discrimination in the workplace, but there is another area in which ageism can literally be a life or death situation: Health care.

A disturbing article on NextAvenue.org highlights the problem. Janine Vanderburg, founder and director of a nonprofit initiative called Changing the Narrative, tells NextAvenue, "We know we live in an age of unconscious bias, and people who work in health care aren't immune to that." Vanderburg notes that a study in the Journal of Internal Medicine found nearly a third of older adults said they frequently experience age discrimination from doctors or hospitals. For example, doctors and nurses can be patronizing or insensitive, and hospital staff will sometimes order unnecessary tests just because patients are older.

Recently, my wife experienced first-hand what could easily be perceived as health care ageism. Her 98-year old mother, who is on oxygen, was gasping for air and was brought to a hospital emergency room, where my wife waited with her. After a quick assessment that the condition was not life threatening, hospital staff completed an entire battery of tests -- EKG, blood work, chest x-ray and COVID-19 test -- and then left the elderly woman laying on a stretcher in the hallway for hours. They even had to repeat the EKG and take more blood because of technical problems. Staff walked by her as if she was invisible. My wife had to ask for a pillow and a blanket because her mom was so uncomfortable. Maybe this same shoddy treatment would have been given to anyone in the emergency room (which of course is inexcusable), but one has to wonder if ageism played some role in it. The diagnosis was pneumonia, which the chest x-ray alone could have revealed.

Yale University professor Becca R. Levy, who conducted research on the impact of ageism on health care costs, tells NextAvenue, "During the pandemic, there were certainly issues that exacerbated ageism in health care, particularly in the long-term care setting — with the high number of deaths in the first months of the pandemic that were due, in part, to the inadequate protective equipment and inadequate protections given to the workers and the residents."

Unfortunately, health care ageism rears its ugly head so frequently that older patients may end up feeling inadequate or they blame themselves. According to Professor Levy, "Part of the reason it's so insidious is that people don't even realize that they're experiencing it and they tend to blame it on themselves instead of discrimination or the larger systemic problem of not getting the best possible health care for older people."

So why am I telling you all this? Very simply, because you and I are aging too. It won't be that long before we face ageism from our doctors, hospitals or other health care providers -- if we haven't already. Instead of accepting it, says Vanderberg, "we need to advocate for ourselves." While we don't have to be jerks about it, that means demanding the treatment we deserve from health care professionals. 

HappilyRewired.com is a Wearever Top 20 Senior Blog and a Top 75 Baby Boomer Blog

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

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