People would like to think that they can be 100% objective, but the truth is, it is impossible for humans to be objective and to put aside their bias. In a statistic class, students tested randomness. The problem was: it is possible for people to be totally random? The answer to the question, after several trials, the answer was no. The experiment ties in with bias because bias and randomness are similar concepts. Like randomness, it is impossible to be bias because there is always an unconscious part in humans that would make them choose a side or lean more one way.
Unfortunately, the implicit bias that exist within humans affects the delivery of health care to the aging population. The phenomenon is referred as ageism, a term coined by Dr. Robert N. Butler. Ageism affects not only the health care provider’s attitude, but their mindset when treating the elderly. Demographics of Aging Population As the baby boomer population gets older, the demographic of the aging population keeps changing. The baby boomer population came about after world war two. The economy of the United States was booming, and war soldiers were quickly coming and getting married.
There was a population shift as people started migrating to the suburbs as neighborhoods such as Levittown were being built. Schools were built around the neighborhood, and the car made it easier for parents to travel to the city for work and return home. With all these changes in, there was a baby boom. Today, the Baby Boomers have reached their mid-60s and early 70s. Their aging has changed the demographics of the population. Today, there are about 45 million elderlies, and the number is predicted to be more than 98 million in 2060 (Mather, Jacobsen, & Pollard, 2015).
Also, the number of people over 100 years old has increased. In 1980, there was about 32,000 Americans 100 years old or older, and there was over 53,000 in 2010, and the number is predicted to reach 600,000 by 2060 (Mather et al. , 2015). The baby boomers are not the only ones affecting the demographic of the aging population. Today, as education takes priority, women are getting married later, and having less babies. As a result, the amount of people getting older is not proportional to the amount of babies being born.
In the year 2014, children made up only about 23 percent of the total population. Disparities exist in the elder population with whites making more than half of the elderly population, and African-Americans only making about a quarter of the elderly population. The elderly population is more concentrated in certain part of the U. S. Older Americans can mostly be found in Florida, the Appalachian region, and the upper parts of the Northwest and the Midwest (Mather et al. , 2015). Personal Self-Awareness, Attitudes, and Stereotypes
Before conducting my research, I knew a little bit about the demographic of the elderly population. From history classes, I learned about the baby boomer generation. As a result, I knew that the percentage of people over the age of 65 was increasing. Because of a macroeconomics course, I also knew that due to the increasing elderly population, Social Security would soon end because the proportion of the people that are working to that of the growing population depending on their Social Security is not balanced. The working population is not able to support the growing elderly population.
Due to a course, Human Geography, I also knew that the elderly population was prominent in the south, the sunbelt region. It is because of the fair weather. As people age, their immune system becomes worse, and the South’s weather is better for the elderly population than the biting cold of the north. Also, there are numerous locations in states such as Florida that cater to the needs of the elderly. In fact, many communities are filled with just the elderly. There are many preconceived ideas that I had about the elderly before doing research.
In fact, module 9 discussion, proved some of my misconceptions wrong. One of the stereotypes I had was that the elderly is not capable of sexual activities. I also thought that all elderly people were weak and frail. Every time I would see an elderly people at the store or something, I would feel bad for them because I am thinking, why are they so alone? They shouldn’t be grocery shopping for themselves. I also thought that sickness and diseases come along with old age. Yes, some of them do, but having a healthy lifestyle can prevent come of diseases.
The biggest attitude that I had was that the elderly people are sweet, kind, and at peace with life, but like any other person of another age group, they can be bitter and sorrowful. Change in Attitude and Healthcare Delivery After much research, my perceptions of the elderly population changed. I realized that the elderly population is just like any other age group. They can experience heartache, pain, loneliness and even economic insecurity. Although the economic poverty has decreased for the older population due to Social Security, there still exists economic disparities among the older population.
For example, 8% of the elder population of whites face poverty compared to the startling 18% for the Hispanics (Mather et al. , 2015). As a result of the poverty being faced, the percentage of the elderly population has increased. It went from 12 percent to 22 percent (Mather et al. , 2015). Ageism does not just affect my attitude, but also that of the healthcare providers. The stereotypes and stigmas circulating about the elderly has attached itself to the minds of health care providers. Sometimes, these stigmas can affect the older person’s health.
Older people risk being under treated. In a conduct survey, 43% of the elderly being interviewed admitted that the healthcare provider assumed that their ailment was due to age and no other causes (Ouchida & Lachs, 2015). Because of stereotypes about the aging population not being sexually active, health care providers misdiagnose STD’s and HIV, and fail to address problems such as libido erectile dysfunction (Ouchida &Lachs, 2015). If an elderly patient has a chance of being under treated, he also has the chance of being over treated.
An example of over-treatment is when doctors over-diagnose benign and slow growing tumors as rapid growing ones; as a result, they use excessive and unnecessary treatment such as surgery that have unnecessary harm such as urinary incontinence (Ouchida & Lachs, 2015). Conclusion The effects of ageism are universal. Unfortunately, the stereotypes and stigmas of age groups affect not only our healthcare, but also how people view us. I believed in the stereotypes of the aging population. But with reliable research, I realized that the aging population is fighting for themselves.
They are working and have families. They actually have a life. Unfortunately, the stereotypes have found itself into the healthcare industry. To prevent the effects of ageism on healthcare professionals, healthcare professionals have been encouraged to consider how stereotypes can affect their diagnosis (Blair, Steiner, & Havranek, 2011). The most important, to prevent over-treatment or under-treatment, is for healthcare providers to learn to appreciate the heterogeneity of older adults and to make an effort to disregard the stigmas and stereotypes (Ouchida & Lachs, 2015).