63% of the elderly claim to have experienced discrimination

Discrimination is typically associated with issues that arise involving race and ethnicity and gender. But a recent study suggests a majority of the elderly also say they have recently experienced discrimination:

A startling proportion of older people report that they’ve experienced discrimination: 63 percent, in a study recently published in Research on Aging. The most commonly cited cause? “Thirty percent report being mistreated because of their age,” said the lead author Ye Luo, a Clemson University sociologist. Perceived discrimination because of gender, race or ancestry, disabilities or appearance followed in smaller proportions…

Dr. Luo and her colleagues used national data from the federal Health and Retirement Study to measure what nearly 6,400 people — all older than age 53 when the study began in 2006 – thought about discriminatory behavior. Dr. Luo wasn’t surprised by the high proportion of people who said they had encountered it. That was consistent, she says, with previous studies.

As the researchers had expected, some people were more likely to report discrimination than others. Blacks, those who were separated or divorced or widowed, and those with fewer household assets had higher levels of perceived discrimination, as measured by questionnaires. It was less commonly perceived by whites, by the married or partnered, and by those with more assets…

Interestingly, the discrimination effect was stronger for everyday slights and suspicions (including whether people felt harassed or threatened, or whether they felt others were afraid of them) than for more dramatic events like being denied a job or promotion or being unfairly detained or questioned by police.

The study also suggests the experiences of discrimination are related to poorer health outcomes.

So if this is a common experience, what could society do differently to limit this? Public service announcements? Lessons in elementary school? How much of this is related to a youth-obsessed culture?

I wonder if these issues will only grow as Americans live longer. Also, what might happen if there is more generational conflict over debt, paying into social security, and the differences in wealth between the young and old?

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