Senior Living Objection #1: "Everyone Is So Old"

Senior Living Objection #1: "Everyone Is So Old"

Old and Ageist: Why Are So Many Older Adults Prejudiced Against Their Own

I was touring a 92-year-old lady on a walker the other day who rejected every place we went saying that "everybody looks so old." It is one of the most common objections I hear from both my clients and their families when the uninitiated visit a senior community for the first time.

It is true. Walking into a community for the first time, the eye naturally goes to the people using walkers or are in wheelchairs. People tend to be drawn to those residents because it is a more dramatic sight, overlooking the many who are just going about their day-to-day business unaided. All elders should consider using a walker after a certain point to decrease fall risk and contribute to prolonged health.

But it always amazes me when we go to communities with large independent populations like Belmont Village in Westwood or Kingsley Manor in Hollywood and my clients comment upon exit that the residents look "old." Yes, these residents are old, but not any older than the client I am touring. It is the mirror that my client is responding to - the reality that there is decline. We are mortal.

Where does this prejudice come from?

Ageism - negative attitudes towards older people and "ableism" - negative attitudes towards people with disabilities - is often a prejudice against our feared future self. There is a deep stigma against getting old in our society, absorbed through cultural stereotypes and things like anti-aging products. The result for many older adults according to Tracey Gendron, a gerontologist at Virginia Commonwealth University is "internalized ageism," which makes people want to distance themselves from age peers or from ideas that they are themselves old.

Seeing a frail elder can be scary. It reminds older people of what might lie ahead. Just because somebody uses a walker or is in a wheelchair does not mean that they are any less interesting or accomplished than the person who, at 85, ambulates without an assistive device. Instead of celebrating all the wisdom that comes with gray hair, wrinkles, and yes, in many cases, wheelchairs, we run from it. I hope we can change this dynamic and that elders can come to see the commonality they share, regardless of the manifestations that may separate them physically.

Assisted Living Locators Los Angeles owner Sarah Ordover is one of LA’s top senior living advisors. Certified in dementia care, Sarah is a trained aging specialist who holds an RCFE assisted living administrators license. Sarah thoughtfully guides families through the senior living decision-making process, helping them find the best solution for their loved ones. Call Sarah at 310-853-8282 for a consultation. Assisted Living Locators is free to clients.