Stigma and Discrimination in the Elderly

Stigma &
Discrimination in our
Older Adults
Dr. Lisa Adams
Media headlines
 Define terms
 Specifics of stigma and ageism
 Causes
 Effects
 Growing older: What it is and isn’t
 Your response
This man
The elderly man that lives by himself down the road from your
house, you call him a crusty old man- he is actually a retired
medical doctor & sergeant from the 2nd world war
You call him antisocial- he keeps much to himself b/c he promised
his deceased wife he would take care of the house and garden for hersomething they always did together. It helps him pass the time.
You call him feeble and weak- he is a strong, healthy vibrant
elderly man. He toiled the soil that helped build the health care
system you use today.
You think he is disfigured & odd- He fought in the 2nd world war
and stepped on a landmine and actually has 2 stumps for legs. He
helped you to enjoy the freedom you have today.
He doesn’t seem to smile much & looks crooked- he still suffers
with a broken heart and is missing his wife, who was the love of his
life and his best friend for 60 years. They didn’t have any children.
Recent Media Headlines
“Ageism” accepted in society
“Our seniors are being treated poorly”
“Seniors being looked down on…”
“Ponzi scheme”
a severe social disapproval of
personal characteristics or beliefs
that are against cultural norms.
 Recognizes differentiation of others
and marked devaluation of a
particularly group of people
Older adults  AGEISM
3 elements of Ageism
Prejudice attitudes towards the aged,
towards old age, and towards the aging
 Discriminatory practices against the
elderly, particularly in employment, but in
other social roles as well; and
 Institutional policies and procedures which
perpetuate stereotypic beliefs about the
elderly, reduce their opportunities for a
satisfactory life and undermine their
personal dignity.
Translated, it simply means…..
Stigma unfortunately is a failure
of our society
Ageism is the biggest disgrace of
They serve absolutely no purpose!!!!
Do people not think that you are
going to grow old!!!
What do you see in this
 Her attire
 Her focus
 Her interest
 Her firm stance
 Her weathered
One Myth
Myth: Mental illness is an old person’s
Fact: Depression is concentrated
among men and women in their prime
working years, and in their children.
Young people between 15 and 24 years
of age are most likely to experience a
mental disorder.
Social Stigma in most cases
When people are isolated socially and
they start losing their social identity
and their social structure starts
dissolving (not being invited to social
events, loss of communication with
loved ones, not being visited, loss of
friendships, etc.). But there is also
the loss of privacy, the fact that your
illness is forced into the open.
Elder abuse
Failed society
Failed parenting of today’s children
Media portrayals
“The love of beauty”
Not knowing the difference
Differences b/t young and old
You worked much harder for what you have,
times were tough
 You didn’t rely on technology, you did it
 Hand me downs instead of designer clothing
 A greater sense of pride
 Greater fortitude and strength
 Knowledge base that no one can surpass
 Intellect and understanding beyond compare
Effects of Stigma
 Detrimental to one’s health
 Anxiety
 Loss of productivity
 Depression
 Loss of self esteem
 Shorter life
The Harm it causes
 Treatment shy
 Does not mean you have a weak
 Embarrassment/shame
 Disheartened
 Disinterest
 Anger
 fear
 distrust
What is growing older?
A natural life event
A beautiful process
An opportunity to embrace
The creation of a seasoned entity
Collection of memories
Celebration of human diversity
Enrichment of a lived experience and
knowledge base
Continued and valuable role in society
What have you achieved?
Even as a stay at home mom you have
contributed to society more than you
will ever know.
 Laborious work (my own mother)
 What you have put your mind to
 What you have put your heart into
 The friends and families that you have
supported and took care of
 Knowledge, wisdom & courage
 The Great Depression, the epidemics
What it isn’t
Not a deviant condition
 Not a shameful event
 Not a social problem
 Not a threat to society
 It is not a different person, a different
lifestyle or different needs= we are all
still one in the same, regardless of
our age, color, ethnicity, etc.
Why subject yourself?
You wouldn't think of going through
life with a broken arm dangling at a
twisted angle. You would get it fixed.
 So why do it for how stigma makes
you feel?
 A mental illness is no different than a
physical illness; both of which can be
What to do
Seeking help to overcome any level of
depression, anxiety, stress or tension
is a sign of emotional strength.
 It is a positive indication that you
want to take charge of your life!
 If you are in pain, please don't ignore
it. Don't let a false sense of pride
keep you from feeling better.
 You are always in control
 Tap into your resources and supports
More of what you can do?
Reflect upon your own ageism.
Start noticing older people around you.
Be considerate of older people's well-being.
Show respect through manners that acknowledge the greater
breadth of wisdom and life experience of each older person.
Avoid assuming helplessness.
Share memories.
Be a teacher too.
Consider nurturing cross-generational activities in your local
community to help every generation learn the benefits of
stepping outside of its own generational mindset.
Remember, one day being older will be you.
Key Lessons
Only regret those things you didn’t get to do in
life; don’t regret the things you have done
This is not your doing or your fault
The issue itself does not rest with you, you did
not create it
The real issues lies with those who practice
ageism and/or stigma towards older adults
Rise above the inaccuracies of stigma and ageism
This is just one example 
 Hurricane Hazel
 Mayor of Mississauga, Ontario for 31
Thank you for your
Lisa Adams
Contact Info.:
[email protected]
Phone: 709-729-2502