There’s been a commercial on TV lately that embodies a slew of insulting stereotypes of older adults – all in 60 seconds. The main character, ‘Martha,’ is upset that she hasn’t received all her possible Medicare benefits. Martha is dressed in dowdy clothes and wears huge unfashionable eyeglasses, keeps repeating herself, and at one point, stares slack-jawed as the announcer speaks to her as if she’s a child.
Negative perceptions about aging are so common, we might not even stop to think about what we really mean if we praise older people for looking or acting ‘younger than their age’ or assume that seniors’ forgetfulness and physical decline are inevitable. For that matter, at what age are you ‘elderly’ or a ‘senior citizen?’ And is 70 really the new 50? Why can’t 70 just be 70?
Unfortunately, stereotypes, assumptions, and even the language we use about older adults and aging can fuel misunderstandings and conflicts between seniors and their family members. For example, one of my clients, James, was considering moving to an apartment in an independent living community. Upon hearing the news, his son said “Great, Dad, it’s about time you moved to an old folks’ home!” Needless to say, that didn’t go over too well.
For caregivers, becoming knowledgeable about the differences between a residential care facility, independent and assisted living, a retirement or senior living community, etc. can be helpful in locating the appropriate resources a senior may need and improve communication. When it comes to better understanding Medicare and other government programs, here is a good place for caregivers to start. In the same way, learning how to discuss topics related to aging outside of harmful biases, assumptions, and stereotypes can improve your relationship altogether.
Navigating these resources and the elder care system is not always easy, and discussing them can be even more challenging. As a care manager, I assist families and seniors throughout the journey and help them explore their options while strengthening their understanding of what it means to age.
If you or someone in your family are facing aging challenges, please give us a call at 803-215-1019 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to assist!