Ageism & Cultural Competency

Ageism: Stereotypes and Prejudice Against the Elderly

Ageism is the stereotypical attitude or prejudice that exists in society against the elderly. In fact, ageism in the various American communities mostly takes the shape of false beliefs or derogatory preconceptions about senior citizens. The emphasis on American youth culture and production, uncontrolled early investigations, and fear of mortality are cultural patterns that greatly contribute to the negative reinforcement of ageism.

The Elderly as a Minority Group

The multiple disadvantages that the elderly experience in society, such as low income, insufficient savings, and forced or early retirement, among others, are substantially to blame for the argument over whether older persons should be regarded a minority or not. Minority groups refer to sociological categories that are defined, differentiated, and discriminated against by the majority in the society. The elderly population comprises of individuals aged 65 years and above. According to National Council on Aging (nd), about 12.5 % of the US population are aged; thus the older adults are the minority (in terms of figures) when compared to the rest of the population.

The Challenges Faced by the Elderly Minority

It is usual to find minority groups oppressed, and the situation is not different from that in the United States. For instance, quite a number of the aged population only receives approximately $435 per month on the Supplemental Security Income (National Council on Aging, nd). With the ever-rising standards of living, the little income does not satisfy the needs of the aged in the US. In addition, older adults are forced to retire early than expected. Consequently, the elderly are rendered into problems including poor health, inadequate or poor housing, and food insecurity among others.

Breaking Stereotypes and Reinforcing a Positive Image of Ageism

On the other hand, the aged should not be considered a minority because age is achieved just like a status – every human being who lives long to attain 65 years and above is likely to become aged. Despite, the disadvantages such as early retirement, low-income, and little savings, and high debts, the aged should be given same treatments as other majority groups. An effective strategy towards reinforcing a positive image of ageism is by addressing the societal influences and cultural patterns that result in myths and negative stereotypes (Lecca, 2014).


Lecca, P. J., Quervalu, I., Nunes, J. V., & Gonzales, H. F. (2014). Cultural Competency in Health, Social & Human Services: Directions for the 21st Century. London: Routledge.

National Council on Aging. (nd). Economic Security. Arlington:

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