Search Results for 'ageism'

Ethnic stereotyping and ageism

The post office box this week held an issue of the New Yorker which generated mixed feelings. Many New Yorker cartoons ( are funny because they skewer our fallacies and foibles using the stereotypes we all have about each other. Most of the stereotypes protrayed are of rich white folk.

This recent cartoon is funny because it reveals the biased attitude many employers have towards older workers. Unfortunately, the medium of expressing a worthy idea is based upon an ethnic stereotype which is problematic, at the best.

by Lee Lorenz

Hold it—we almost forgot his benefits package.” (Two eskimos sending a third out to sea on a small slab of ice.)

ID: 122851, Published in The New Yorker September 11, 2006,

The stereotype underlying the cartoon’s point about ageism is false. Recently we had a physician lie about just such a scenario, up north. People were quite hurt by the accusation.

JAMA falls foul of fabricated suicide story [JAMA is Journal of the American Medical Association]

by Deborah Josefson, San Francisco

An essay published in JAMA’s Piece of my Mind section, has stirred controversy after it was revealed that the events depicted in it were fictional.

The essay was written by a medical student, Shetal Shah, and appeared last October (JAMA 2000;284:1897-8). In his essay, Mr Shah described an encounter with a 97 year old Inuit [sic. Eskimo people live in Alaska and Inuit people live in Canada.] man, a toothless elderly member of the Siberian Yupik tribe, who, feeling useless, came to say goodbye to the young medical student before committing suicide by walking off into a frozen tundra in the morning fog.

In a letter to JAMA, Dr Michael Swenson, a physician with Norton Health Sound in Nome, Alaska, and Shah’s tutor during his elective, denied the existence of such a patient. Moreover, Dr Swenson charged that Mr Shah’s false account promulgates false stereotypes about the Inuit people and perpetuates ancient myths…. Dr Swenson said that he understood Mr Shah’s tweaking of events to make them more of a story but said that the account was entirely fictional and as such reflected more of our culture’s prejudices towards elderly people than those of the Siberian Yupik….

Read the story in the British Medical Journal, on-line here

I’m not sure there is any evidence for any such a scenario in the past, except maybe under extreme conditions of long ago.

Certainly, such a slur against a large group of US citizens should not have been printed in the New Yorker. As the response to the BMJ article said,

When will medical journals learn to leave anecdotes for Cosmopolitan and fictionalized accounts for the New Yorker? The author’s explanatory note is lame in the extreme. BMJ 2001;323:472 ( 1 September )

On the other hand, I am not as troubled by Sam Gross’ cartoon at the bottom, in part because he skewers every stereotype and in part because it highlights so well the predominant establishment attitude around here about caring and valuing older people.

This is 2006. We have no nursing home; we had an assisted living residence, which was never used as such. Another assisted living residence was promised to open September 2005. After several people inquired publicly, the health corp. finally announced it might open in 2008.

July 15, 2006, Assisted living home construction could begin soon

Construction on an Assisted Living Home in the YK Delta for elders and adults with disabilities may be just beyond the horizon.

“Establishing an assisted living home is important because we have an aging population in our region and we don’t have a facility where we can take care of them properly,” said Gene Peltola, CEO of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation.

Despite the fact that the elderly make up one of the fastest growing populations in the YK Delta, the region remains as the only area in Alaska that has no long-term assisted living facility.


by Danny Shanahan

“Remember, son, it’s never too early to start saving for retirement.” (Father talking to son as he pushes an elderly Eskimo out to sea on an ice floe.)

ID: 46757, Published in The New Yorker November 26, 2001,


by Christopher Weyant

“It’s your mother. She’s floated back.” (Two eskimos watch a third float back on his ice floe.)

ID: 122883, Published in The New Yorker September 18, 2006,

I have never appreciated mother-in-law jokes as they are inherently misogynist. The above is next week’s New Yorker take on Eskimos.


by Sam Gross

“Are you sure this ice floe is going to pass by the nursing home?” (Elderly Eskimo on ice floe shouts back to family who are waving good-bye.)

ID: 42864, Published in The New Yorker November 22, 1999,


Ann Fienup-Riordan, Ph.D. has explored Alaska Eskimo stereotypes and other portrayals in the movies—
Freeze Frame book jacket

“Freeze Frame, Alaska Eskimos in the Movies” by Ann Fienup-Riordan, Pub Date: August 2003,
ISBN:Paper: 0-295-98337-X

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Ageism in services for transient ischaemic attack and stroke

Unfortunately, British medical Journal is no longer available free on-line and the nearest medical library is either 400 miles or 1,500+ away.

2006;333:508-509 (9 September), doi:10.1136/bmj.38961.641400.BE

Ageism in services for transient ischaemic attack and stroke could be cut by emulating successful efforts against ageism in heart disease care

Societies based on market driven economies have deeply embedded value systems that inherently favour economically productive younger citizens and marginalise non-productive older citizens. Health services reflect the societies they serve. One manifestationof institutionalised ageism is overt and covert rationing of health care that discriminates against older people. This might be acceptable if the clinical outcomes of treating older people were inferior. However, the notion of age based rationing of treatment has become unsustainable and unethical as robust evidence has accumulated that shows comparable outcomes for treatment of older and younger people.

In England, decades of health service underfunding have provided an environment in which ageism has flourished—it is endemic. Whenever a clinical stone is turned over, ageism is revealed—for example, in cancer services, coronary care units, prevention of vascular disease, and in mental health services. To this list we must now add the . . . [Full text of this article]

Press release here
“Ageism endemic in health services”

Jigsaw puzzles Stave off ageism

Stave puzzle, Tiffany lamp

I’m not sure what the proportion of grey hair or hairlessness triggers the attraction of older people to jigsaw puzzles. At a certain point, old people can’t do anything else except weekly BINGO (housie). Set out a puzzle or two and watch clients congregate.

To make life more challenging for elders, senior centers often use only the most beloved puzzles, with a couple of pieces missing.

Jigsaws are an especially valued activity for the senior center itself because if it does get visitors, the visitors will tell others– “They always look so busy up there!” And it keeps them quiet. 😉

But I don’t know why we have to get stuck with the same old-fashioned, simplistic ones that younger people choose. I think Dover Publishing offers 3-D towers and other structures and Brentano’s used to sell them, too.

The 2-D puzzles manufactured by Stave Puzzles are luscious to look at and while simple, are hardly simplistic.

Let’s add them to the wish-list!

O’Folks, off their rocker Add this to Bookmarks:

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Ageism rife in all generations

The commonest form of prejudice in Britain is between the generations. The young are seen as clever but callous. The old are delightful but doddery. Age discrimination is ubiquitous, according to the first national survey of attitudes to age.

Researchers questioned 1,843 randomly chosen UK residents and found definitions of youth and age so fluid that they confined their research to opinions about people who were under 30 and over 70.

‘If you are a 24-year-old man, you believe that old age begins about 55, which is surprising because if you are a 62-year-old woman, you think youth doesn’t end until 57,’ Dominic Abrams of the University of Kent told the British Association for the Advancement of Science yesterday.”

Betty White rocks

You are welcome but this is not her show’s site. Is Betty White’s new show an April Fool’s Day prank? Judging by the European version, it wouldn’t be very complimentary but ageist.

Betty White image

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O’Folks (off their rocker)

Old age isn't a disease.

Arctic sunset

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