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Age discrimination widespread in United States…International Longevity Center details realities of ageism in report  

Age discrimination is deeply embedded and widespread in American society according to a new report, Ageism in America, issued by the International Longevity Center-USA (ILC-USA).   

Ageism, the denial of basic human rights of older persons, is one of the most pervasive prejudices across human society says the ILC-USA.  

In the 114 page report, a multidisciplinary task force led by Dr. Robert N. Butler, president and CEO of the ILC-USA, document and analysis the numerous aspects of age discrimination, including discrimination in the workplace, elder abuse, lack of emergency preparedness for older persons, and the negative impact of the media and the marketplace. 

The ILC-USA considered existing research, current findings, policies and services that address these unreported issues. 

“It is critical that we begin to transform the culture and experience of aging in America,” says Dr. Butler. “It is a matter of human and civil rights.”  

Social forces play a large role in shaping attitudes toward aging. According to Dr. Becca R. Levy, Assistant Professor, Yale University School of Medicine, psychologist and member of the report taskforce, “Age stereotypes are often internalized at a young age—long before they are even relevant to people.”  

Cultural and social age discrimination is perpetrated in the marketing and media. Older adults are rapidly becoming the largest market segment in society and will possess the most purchasing power of any demographic in human history, but in contrast to other industries, such as travel and insurance, advertising has been slow to respond to the new demographic realities.  

Personal ageism, prejudice by an individual against an older person, is documented in the increase reports of elder abuse.  It is estimated one to three million older Americans are victims of abuse yet only one out of six incidents of elder abuse is brought to the attention of authorities.

The attitudes of physicians and other health providers, as well as health care institutions, offer instances of frank ageism or subtle discrimination based upon age.  60 percents of adults over 65 do not receive recommended preventive services, and 40 percent do not receive vaccines for flu and pneumonia.   

Ageism in the workplace restricts the job opportunities of older workers, with significant consequences for the national economy.  While many employers may have legitimate concerns about the costs related to the earnings, health insurance and pensions of older workers, many also have misconceptions about the productive potential and receptiveness to training of older workers.  

"There are 75 million baby boomers in America, and over the next two decades they will reach typical retirement age," says Dr. Kenneth Knapp, economist and Senior Research Associate at the ILC-USA. "This could have profound effects on the labor market, and employers really have to assess their perceptions of older workers."  Dr. Knapp urges employers to be proactive rather than reactive.  "Employers who attract and retain older workers today will be in a much better competitive position as the boomers begin to retire," he says, "than employers who wait until tomorrow."  

In recent years, manmade and natural disasters have exposed major problems in emergency services for older Americans. Throughout the country, the emergency safety measures in place are often severally flawed in providing safety for vulnerable populations.  60 percent of victims in Hurricane Katrina were age 61 or older.

Examining the economic costs of ageism on American society reveals the monetary benefits awarded under formal charges and litigation proceedings of age discrimination reveals from 1992 through 2004, the monetary awards have totaled $861 million.  In addition, there is an economic loss to the older employee, who is not fully utilized for their skill and experience.  

Ageism In America includes Status Reports on seven major ageism topics, a definitions guide to different types of ageism, a list of ageist terms, and a timetable of efforts to combat ageism.

The report concludes with a Call for Further Research and an Agenda for Action.  

An advisory board, under the direction of ILC-USA researcher Kyoung Kim, helped shape the framework and content of Ageism In America. Members of the board included Carl Bernstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist,  Lawrence K. Grossman, Former President, NBC News, Becca R. Levy, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Division of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Yale School of Public Health, Laurie A. McCann, Senior Attorney, AARP Foundation Litigation, Sara Rix, Senior Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute, William D. Zabel, Esq., Partner, Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP and John F. Zweig, Chairman, Specialist Communications, WPP Group USA, Inc.  

The ILC-USA hopes that Ageism in America will provide the intellectual basis for future legal and legislative efforts, especially as it relates to enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and nursing home regulations. The report includes a proposal to legislators at the local, state and federal level to provide legal protection against age discrimination, incorporating age in Civil Rights Title VII, which already protects Americans against sex and racial discrimination.   

 “The effort to transform the culture and the experience of aging in America is quintessential and urgent,” concludes Dr. Butler.  “Legislative initiatives must be initiated at the local, state, and federal level to provide legal protection against age discrimination. Ultimately, they will benefit all who would grow old.”   

To download the complete report visit http://www.ilcusa.org/news/story_aging.htm. To request a copy of the publication please contact meganm@ilcusa.org.  

The International Longevity Center-USA is a research policy organization in New York City and has sister centers in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Led by Dr. Robert N. Butler, a world renowned physician specializing in geriatrics, the Center is a non-for-profit, non-partisan organization with a staff of economists, medical and health researchers, demographers and others who study the impact of population aging on society.  The ILC-USA focuses on combating ageism, healthy aging, productive engagement and the financing of old age. The ILC-USA is an independent affiliate of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and is incorporated as a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity.  More information on the ILC-USA can be found at www.ilcusa.org


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