© Imelda Maurer, cdp
The Gerontological Society of America has a listserv for its members to share news and items of interest with each other. The following item was contributed last week by Bob Harootyan who is involved in research for a Senior Volunteer Organization in Silver Spring, Maryland:
In a videotaped presentation on 3/6/17, HUD Secretary Ben Carson made two egregious statements. The first concerned the "other immigrants" who came to this country "in the bottom of slave ships." Immigrants -- really? That statement appropriately caused an uproar on the Internet and in the media.
His second statement, however, did not. It pertained to his views as a neurosurgeon and the satisfaction he receives from helping patients. Except that not all patients seem to deserve his help. Carson said that he can operate for 8, 10, even 20 hours on a young person and give that patient another 40, 50 or 60 years of life. But if he spent the same amount of time operating on an "old geezer" [verbatim] he'll be "dead within five years." Carson concluded by saying he prefers to operate on younger people because he wants a "longer return on my investment."
Carson clearly believes that the lives and well-being of older people have less value than those of younger people. And this ageist view is from a medical professional. I'm appalled by his thinking and also disappointed in the lack of uproar about such ageist insensitivity.
It’s true that our culture is more sensitized to the violence borne of racial prejudice, and there was a well-deserved outcry about Carson’s talk about "immigrants" in the hold of slaves ships and their dreams for the future.
Two points about all of this:
1. We must learn to recognize ageism in any form in which it shows itself. As much as I like Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon, their jokes involving aging adults are AWFULLY AGEIST. Are you sensitive to the trivialization and denigration these two late-night comics engage in when they speak of ‘old people’?
2. Dr. Ben Carson is a member of the medical community and speaks with total lack of awareness that his comments are ageist. Unfortunately, he’s not the only medical provider with ageist attitudes. It's not that uncommon in the medical profession. If you are an older adult (let’s say 60 or better) be aware of comments or attitudes of any care provider that reflect attitudes of ageism. If you see them, experience them, either talk about them with your provider and get relief, or fire that provider and find a better one.