Features and Causes of Gerontological Ageism in the Provision of Medical and Social Assistance

Author Name(s): Irina P. Pochitaeva, Lola V. Kolpina, Svetlana G. Gorelik, Oksana N. Belousova, Margarita V. Koroleva, Elmira E. Sadardinov
Author Email: info@belsu.ru


Based on the data of the author’s sociological survey of medical and social workers, the article analyzes the prevalence of ageism in the activities of medical and social workers, its factors and prerequisites. It proves that ageism is a common phenomenon in the activities of medical and especially social workers but the discussion of this problem is fraught with economic, psychological, and ethical difficulties. As significant prerequisites, the following can be singled out: an orientation toward “economic inexpediency” of working with older people, an idea of the desirability of high emotional involvement of specialists in the problems of older people, destructive attitudes towards old age; factors – the social policy of the state, low pay and the prestige of the work of specialists working in the field of medical and social services.


The relevance of the topic is due to the fact that the ageism of medical and social workers is an obstacle to the quality service of older people. Gerontological ageism is commonly understood as a form of age discrimination, which is manifested in negative stereotypes regarding old age and aging, as well as discriminatory practices implemented at the household and institutional levels [3; 15, p. 49]. These are ultimatum prejudices against older age groups and the most severe form of discrimination, comparable to racism and sexism [8; 13, p.41]. Ageism “legitimizes” the use of chronological age to highlight classes of people who are systematically denied resources and opportunities [4, p.38]. In healthcare, it can be expressed, for example, in stereotypes about the abilities of older patients, evaluative judgments about the quality or value of life, in misconceptions about the desires of older people when choosing certain forms of treatment [6, p. 27]. And, despite numerous studies, the activities of health care institutions regarding “good” aging, negative images of aging have a strong vitality and now manifest themselves in “more subtle but no less harmful forms of age discrimination”.


The main reasons for gerontological ageism in healthcare and social services are: – Economic (low remuneration of specialists working with older people, low prestige of specialists working with older people); – Political (social policy of the state, forming an idea of older people as an economically inappropriate category); technical and technological (outdated equipment and technology in assisting older people); – Psychological (destructive attitudes regarding aging and death, high emotional involvement in the care of older people, determining the emotional burnout of specialists, psychological difficulties in communicating with older people); – Moral and ethical (neglect of older people due to their low social status, treating older people as an economically inexpedient category in terms of investing energy and resources in their health, care, and support); – Competence (low level of competence of specialists working with older people in the field of psychology of communication with this category of patients and clients). A special role in overcoming gerontological ageism in the activities of medical and social workers and weakening the influence of economic, political, psychological, moral, ethical and competence reasons on this phenomenon, belongs to the social policy of the state. Despite the fact that the study of problems of gerontological ageism is associated with great psychological discomfort that impedes a constructive dialogue around this problem, their discussion is necessary to prevent discrimination of older people.

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