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ASA’s Policy Priorities—Tackling Ageism

An icon showing a red slash across the word “Ageism” in a red circle

 

ASA’s strategic plan envisions that by 2024 ASA will expand member engagement in policy development and advocacy and significantly strengthen ASA’s role and voice as one of the country’s leading aging sector advocates. After hearing from our membership, ASA concluded that it will lead on policy efforts related to: (1) accelerating digital inclusion; (2) tackling ageism, (3) advancing health equity, and (4) fighting climate change. ASA will support organizations and coalitions championing issues related to aging that align with ASA’s mission and member priorities. For all other important aging policy matters, we will use our extensive year-round educational and thought leadership programming to drive change for our society.

 

3 Key Issues: Healthcare, Culture and Law

  • Ageism in healthcare is prevalent. Older adults face age-based biases and barriers to diagnosis and treatment that effectively ration healthcare delivery. Older adults are too often excluded from research. In a 2021 study, researchers found that one-third of U.S. respondents ages 50 and older reported the healthcare system “never,” or only “sometimes,” considered their care preferences, which is magnified among those who are lower-income or identify as a minority group. This can lead to older patients engaging less in the healthcare system or not seeking medical care altogether. Any reluctance to use health services has serious implications for older, minority populations suffering from chronic conditions.
  • Ageism in our culture. On TV (only 1.5% of characters are older adults), advertising (older adults are 7 times more likely to be portrayed negatively in online ads), housing (age-based screening and discrimination) and education (ageist funding and other structural barriers) are all out of sync with the reality of today’s aging society.
  • Ageism in our laws. From how they’re made to how they’re implemented, arbitrary, chronological age-based laws, regulations and policies permeate all three branches of government. Congress use ageist language in law and avoid investing in older adults; the Judicial Branch undervalues older judges, and the legal system is fraught with age-bias; and the Executive Branch promulgates ageist regulations and policies with arbitrary, chronological age-based laws.

 

Policy Recommendations

Make our laws age-inclusive

 

Invest in anti-ageism efforts that work

 

Ensure the government understands the impacts of ageism

  • Conduct a GAO analysis of how ageism permeates regulations and policies to the detriment of older adults to monitor and track ageism in a range of key agencies, particularly among healthcare and long-term care workers, in the housing sector, in the legal system and during emergency management, and implement actions plans for change.
  • Invest in more ageism research from NIH and other related federal agencies on the impact of ageism in healthcare and long-term care.
  • Ensure age is part of federal DEI initiatives, including adding age advocates on advisory boards, requiring age-related training and certifications (such as for all healthcare providers), to increase knowledge of the aging process and teach people how to work with older adults.