Misunderstanding the Elderly: The Unknown Growing Stigma


In American alone, more than 6.5 million older adults suffer from depression, stated by the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Out of the deaths by suicide, those 65 years and older make up 20%, and the number continuously grows.

Unfortunately, people of all ages across the world are diagnosed with depression and die by suicide, but the 65 year and older age group is the least discussed. The stigma society has developed towards the elderly comes from gerontological teachings, a factor of the development of mental illness and suicide.

Society and media play a major influence for the mistreatment towards the elderly. This comes from the fear people have in regards to aging, no one wants to get old, all of which derives through the study of gerontology.

So what do people do? They find ways to fight against aging through anti-aging products. Anti-aging products range from facial creams to supplements are all created to make one look and or feel younger. A majority of the time these particular products are showcased in advertisements to attract aging consumers.

On other media platforms, such as films or television shows, the elderly are commonly portrayed as the "cranky old person," or the punchline at the end of a joke.

Unknowingly, this creates the thought that the elderly are not like everyone else who falls under a separate age range. With the help of anti-aging products and advertising, people are influenced not to see themselves as aging. Eventually, people are misguided into misunderstanding the elderly because they are automatically thought to be different from anti-aging.

Due to misinterpretation towards the elderly forming in society, it leads to medical misunderstandings. Many are not aware of the consequences and effects towards individuals aged 65 and older not receiving the proper medical care they need.

As the elderly age, depression becomes the most common illness that the elderly do not receive proper care for. The Center for the Disease Control and Prevention shares more thoughts on the risk of depression within older adults.

"Older adults are at increased risk. We know that about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer) or whose function becomes limited."

The percentage does not include the total amount of those with chronic illness because depression is also under diagnosed within the elderly. It is highly common for older adults to be misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed at all, due to misunderstandings. Those misunderstandings can be the signs of depression, which are thought to be common within the elderly because they are "old," but that is false.

Some of the common symptoms of depression include decreased energy, restlessness, hopelessness, physical pain and changes in eating and sleeping patterns. These are some of the symptoms that society tends to associate with the elderly as they continue to age. In actuality, the symptoms are signs of depression, yet society misconstrues them and the elderly remain undiagnosed or treated improperly.

All of these misinterpretations result in an increase of depression for the elderly along with the suicide rates. The statistics of the depressed and suicide rates can decrease through acceptance of aging and understanding the elderly.

According to the United States Census Bureau, almost 50 million people in America are 65 years or older. Therefore almost every person should be affiliated with someone 65 years or older.

Lastly, everyone ages whether wanted or not and everyone will eventually be a part of the 65 years or older age range. A change can occur for the better of the elderly if society develops awareness of its influences towards their mistreatment. Thus providing a better life for those living the last of theirs.