The following interview addresses the connection between mistreatment and ageism in care facilities.
Dr Giorgio Pavan, psychologist and ISRAA’s general director answers some questions on the topic.
1.Do you think there is a connection between prejudices and stereotypes towards older adults and the mistreatment that unfortunately sometimes occurs in care facilities?
Absolutely yes. There is a direct correlation. Prejudice is pervasive and takes the form of the value denial of the older, no longer perceived as a person. This usually happens because the senior is not productive anymore and especially when not self-sufficient. This lack of recognition means that no power and possibility of self-determination are recognized by the older person. This exposes the older to any kind of treatment and mistreatment, with no or just a few chances to defend. Conversely, if the older adults were fully recognized and respected, ill-treatment would not occur.
2.What are the stereotypes most often associated with people living in care facilities?
Generally speaking, the prejudice towards older adults living in nursing homes gets exacerbated by the prejudice towards the nursing homes themselves. According to the general imagination, nursing homes are nothing but places hosting people that are not useful anymore. Therefore, a sum of prejudices occurs: not only that towards being old, but also that towards being an old person living in a care facility. I always say that prejudice causes more deaths than the Covid, because the Covid leaves, but the prejudice remains.
3.What actions should be taken to counter ageism and mistreatment in working contexts like care facilities?
The first action is to focus on the vision and mission of the organizations that, like ISRAA, provide services to older people. Complete identification of the organizations with the concepts of respect, inclusion, and valorization of the older person as a multifaceted and complex individual is crucial. Giving value to older adults must become the beating heart of the organizational culture and, in this way, be transferred to the employees. Positive feelings towards seniors must become a real strategy of the organization. Only in this manner, should any mistreatment and discrimination occur, it would be immediately detected.
4.In what way, through what actions can organizations such as ISRAA contribute to counter ageism and convey new imagery of aging among the population?
The best strategy is for the service provider to become and be perceived by citizens as a community within the community. This means becoming a trustworthy reference, a resource to be turned to when guidance and support are needed. Cultivating formal and informal relations with the surrounding territory is therefore a fundamental action to be undertaken to enhance such perception and spread trust. Moreover, the connection with the territory and its community should be exploited to overcome the taboo of growing old, the current domaining “anti-aging” culture. Growing old is today perceived as something wrong, something to be ashamed of, and something to counteract. A “pro-aging” culture, recognizing aging by restoring dignity to this phase of life, should be diffused and sustained. The right to be old must be recognized and reaffirmed.