A negative outlook toward the elderly is, unfortunately, something that many of the residents of long-term care facilities like the Bushwick Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing have experienced before coming to join us. This idea is probably not one that is unfamiliar to us, but there may be an aspect of the ageism problem that we find surprising. Ageism by aging is rapidly increasing, and it causes difficulties not only for those who are discriminated against but also for those doing the discriminating.

Our country is currently facing the challenge of one of its largest populations (the Baby Boomer generation) aging into its elderly years. This is rapidly creating the largest number of geriatric patients in the healthcare industry has ever seen. At the same time, modern western medicine has improved to the point that people in developed countries like the United States and Canada are living longer than ever before. This comprehensive trend has also created a shift in the mentality of the population. Because there are so many people remaining in their peer group, many people years beyond the age of retirement no longer see themselves as being or becoming “elderly.”

On an individual basis, this may make it difficult for a senior to accept the necessity of transitioning to a long-term care facility like the Bushwick Center. They may have trouble allowing themselves to properly socialize with other residents who they view as being “so old”, and they may find it unfair that they are being separated from the younger population. While, of course, it’s always good to remain “young at heart”, it’s also best for everyone to be realistic about age and each person’s practical circumstances.

The easiest way to ensure that seniors have a realistic outlook as they deal with the challenges of aging is to promote ongoing and honest communication. Although it may be more comfortable to pretend with your beloved senior that they’ll remain young and independent forever, it’s actually much healthier to discuss the future with them in a practical way that acknowledges and embraces the changes that come with aging.