Exposure to ageism and self-ageism among older adults

Scientific background: Ageism is defined by the World Health Organization as thoughts, feelings and behaviors about age and aging. The emphasis in this research project is on its negative consequences for older adults. Research in Israel (including a collaborative study funded by the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research) and worldwide has shown ageism to be prevalent in the health system and ageism (both by the health system and by older adults towards themselves) to harm older adults, their health behaviors (e.g. going to the doctor less often because pain is perceived as natural) and their health status, including earlier death among older adults who perceived their aging in a negative manner. Objectives: To conduct an extensive survey on the exposure of the older population to ageism in the healthcare system and on negative self-perceptions of aging. We will also examine how ageism is linked to health behaviors and to the utilization of healthcare services. Working hypotheses: As they age, older adults will report a higher exposure to ageism from the healthcare system and more negative self-perceptions of aging. Both perceptions of ageism from the healthcare system and from the self will be directly related to health behaviors and to utilization of health services. Type of research and methods of data collection: Conduct a national representative survey of adults aged 50 and above, stratified by age, gender, population group (Veteran Jew, Arab-Israeli, immigrants from the former Soviet Union) and geographical area. Methods of data analysis: Bivariate and multivariate associations to understand the extent of the phenomenon and its effects on older adults’ health and health behaviors. Uniqueness and relevance to the National Health Insurance Law: Examining the extent and implications of ageism in Israel is a first step in combating ageism. Knowledge regarding its extent and implications will aid service provides and shed light on the phenomenon and its meaning among older adults. Possible policy recommendations: Ageism has negative consequences for individuals and for the whole system because it impacts the issues which policy makers address and the questions they ask. Providing information about its extent and implications is important for raising awareness to the issue and for service improvement. The study will identify patterns in the healthcare system that should be altered to improve the service offered to the older population.