Reflections on Ageism
- Paul Rooprai
As a pre-med student, I volunteered in the emergency department of a local hospital, and I also worked as a personal trainer for MacWheelers, an exercise program for adults with spinal cord injury. Looking back, I now realize how often I made wrong assumptions about elderly patients I cared for. I assumed they were too weak and fragile for simple tasks. As a personal trainer, I was overly restrictive on which equipment they could use and the types of movements they could safely perform.
The turning point for me was when I attended a geriatrics conference and learned key concepts such as ageism (stereotyping and discrimination on the basis of age) and marginalization. I examined my attitudes, behaviors and language, and began to recognize hidden biases and prejudices. I examined the way our society views older people as less able and less valuable, and began to recognize the negative impact on their health and well-being.
Learning about ageist practices has given me a greater appreciation for the process of aging and my interactions with older populations have in turn become more meaningful. An awareness of ageism will serve me well as a future healthcare professional by allowing me to adopt an approach to care that focuses on the individual’s characteristics and not their age.