How ageism impacts decision-making.
End of life decision-making is complicated by philosophic, religious, and personal beliefs specifically in regard to vegetative and debilitating states. However, the choice should always be a personal one with regard to end of life because it is that person’s life. But this is complicated also because moral questions arise concerning whether a person has the right to end their own life due to intolerable pain or debilitation.
Part of the issue with end of life decisions stems from the fact that most people dislike thinking about death and aging, making end of life decisions more complicated due to lack of planning. This has helped aging become a social problem referred to as ageism. Ageism is a prejudice and discrimination towards the elderly. The most common expression of ageism is in the neglect of senior citizens. Senior citizens are often called the invisible population. They are referred to in this manner because although seniors are the largest growing group in the United States they are given the least amount of attention in media or even in political concerns. Ageism is a significant and very large problem in the United States. Elderly people are constantly referred to in a pejorative manner and ridiculed for being slow as well as stupid.
Seniors are often depicted as frail and mentally challenged, but these stereotypes have been promoted through the media and contradict the true nature of seniors in the United States. Most seniors would gladly participate in many social events but society ignores the desires of the elderly. Family often views their older members as being tired and lacking a desire to be involved. In fact, many senior assistance organizations are not run by young people but are instead managed and operated by seniors. Organizations such as Meals on Wheels are prime example of active seniors working in communities.
Many researchers theorize that ageism is a reaction to one’s own inevitable mortality. Ageism may exist due to fears of becoming old and facing impending death. For many, the elderly are reminders of this fear. Because many people do not want to face death and old age until they have reached it themselves, people tend to ostracize the elderly (Schaefer, 2012, pg. 395).
Schaefer, R. (2012). Racial and ethnic groups (13th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.