Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Racism, Sexism Unacceptable, But Ageism Continues To Thrive[i]
Getting old is an insidious process. You hardly notice it creeping up on you. But others do. And they’re only too glad to remind you of the fact, sometimes in a joking well-intentioned fashion…often not. Our society has managed, for the most part, to banish racism and sexism, or at least make it politically unacceptable. Look no further than the outrage over a former NDP MLA’s sexist comments about Premier Christy Clark.
But ageism continues to thrive. It often seems to be the last acceptable form of bigotry in politically correct countries like Canada. Younger people are allowed to dismiss what older folks say because of a knee-jerk hostility—and disinterest—towards them. Being old, in their narrow view, is one of the worst crimes you can commit. Which is especially true if you are poor, elderly women or otherwise disadvantaged. It is little wonder that this leads to elder abuse, the acting out of a powerful underlying prejudice in an urban, youth-oriented world where too often seniors are viewed as sub-human.
Mostly, though, its not so much a use that's in play in B.C. just plain thoughtlessness.
An E- street member B. Smith, of Vancouver, tells how in 2007 her dying mother a longtime victim of domestic violence, was put in a ward with men in the hospital “She was very upset, and we her children were frantic,” she said. She and other family members advised the nursing staff that, because of her mom’s history she should only be in a room with other women. And she was moved to another room. But male patients were later moved back into that room---which made her mom’s death from cancer at age of 77 even more unbearable.
”Women should not have to die in fearful conditions.” The 59-year-old Smith noted. “It’s morally wrong, utterly reprehensible and totally preventable.” Smith, a former Alberta hospital admitting supervisor, told me Monday that the policy of mixing men and women in BC hospital wards continues to this day: “They don’t care for the dignity of patients.”
Medical researcher Donna Young said age discrimination really kicks when people turn 90, and patient care often turns from bad to worse. “You’re not treated as a human being anymore,” she said in an interview. “You’re worthless. You don’t contribute to the tax base.”
Young, 69 years old, noted that her mom died this June in a Kamloops hospital, aged 97, after three years of pain and suffering.
My view is that it’s all about attitudes. Age discrimination is not simply a problem in health institutions; it’s endemic in our society. The movie and TV industries tend to ignore old people or treat them as the butt of bad jokes. Ageism is also rife on the Internet, where it generally flies by unchallenged.
What gets ignored is the voice of experience and sense of perspective that comes with old age. And given the current social and economic turmoil in the world, we need that wisdom more than ever. Indeed we need to celebrate it,