AGEISM Strikes Again!!!

“I chose to write this blog post today because of the positive revision of the Older American’s Act, originally written in 1965. I also chose to write today for I am having a very good “brain day”. Those kinds of days have been few and far between lately so I must take advantage of when my brain says, “Hey, use me while you can. I’m good to go!”  ~B

Have you ever heard of “Early-Onset” Breast Cancer? “Early-Stage” Heart Disease? “Early-Development COVID-19”?

I ask these questions because the Diseases I mentioned above have no age limit. You can develop Cancer before age 1. You can be born with Heart Disease. You can develop so many things in your teen years.

If you developed any of the Diseases above, no matter your age, you would be treated the same, meaning a 3-year-old will be treated the same as a 45-year-old. Same illness, just a different age group.
Do you think Jonas Salk, after developing the shot for polio said, “This is only for individuals over the age of 45!” NO! It was designed to help ANYONE at ANY AGE!

Enter Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementia-Related Illnesses, some of the most complex, misunderstood, stigmatized Diseases in the world.  Can you recall any legislation brought before Congress that had to be voted upon based on the age of any American Citizen for any known disease?

Thanks to Mr. Google, I found the following:

  • Alois Alzheimer noted the unique symptoms in 1906. 1906: Alzheimer’s Disease is first described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in his patient known only as Auguste D. The patient experienced memory loss, paranoia, and psychological changes.
  • Jonas Salk (1914–1995) became a national hero when he put to rest the fear of the dreaded disease with his POLIO vaccine, approved in 1955. Although it was the first polio vaccine, it was not to be the last; Albert Bruce Sabin (1906–1993) introduced an oral vaccine in the United States in the 1960s that replaced Salk’s. (no age requirement)
  • Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 in response to concern by policymakers about a lack of community social services for older persons. The original legislation established authority for grants to states for community planning and social services, research and development projects, and personnel training in the field of aging. The law also established the Administration on Aging (AoA) to administer the newly created grant programs and to serve as the federal focal point on matters concerning older persons. (over the age of 65)
  • The Children’s Health Act of 2000 (Pub. L. 106–310, 114 Stat.1101, enacted October 17, 2000), signed by President Clinton on October 17, 2000, was brought into law to conduct a study focusing on children from before conception to 21 years of age.
  • HIV AIDS – There is no cure for HIV, but there is treatment. Without HIV treatment, your immune system can become weak and you can become sick with life-threatening illnesses. This is the most serious stage of HIV infection, called AIDS. Anyone can be infected with HIV, no matter:  Your age, Your sex, Your race or ethnicity, Who you have sex with.

Look, I didn’t ask to have Alzheimer’s Disease, Vascular Dementia, Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and who knows what I’ll get later on, but I sure as hell know that standing around crying about it sure won’t change anything. I also know there are many individuals (including some of my very close friends) who are worse off than me.

The Disease that we live with, day in and day out, a disease that robs us of our memories from yesterday and last week, a Disease that has no cure and no way to slow the progression (YET), SUCKS! Thank goodness we still have most of our memories from years ago.
What also SUCKS is that we sort of know what our end will look like. We have seen our Loved Ones go before us and at times, I wish, like the majority of folks, I wouldn’t want to know how it all ends. You just don’t want to know some things.

I know a cure or the stop of the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia-Related Illnesses could happen tomorrow, next week, next year or the next decade. It will happen.
Thank goodness, the reauthorization of the Older Americans Act now includes individuals under the age of 65.  All I ask is, that we continue to have the same access to programs and policies that are open to everyone else, regardless of our age.

That’s all I have for now . . .
Until Next Time,
PEACE

 

 

What Happened to our Society?

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As a Baby Boomer, (born in 1960) I grew up respecting my elders. Elders were basically anyone of the adult age. This meant Teachers, Bus Drivers, Law Enforcement Officers, Mail Carriers, Firefighters, anyone and everyone who was an adult. It didn’t matter who the person was, YOU RESPECTED THEM. If you didn’t, well, word would get back to your parents and they would “gently remind you” about the respect issue.

Fast Forward to today. What happened to RESPECT? You would be hard pressed to find a young child or a teenager addressing an adult as “Sir or Ma’am.” Instead you get “YEAH” or “NO” or nothing because they are texting or taking a Selfie and are too busy to answer. Somewhere along the line, RESPECT flew out the window.

Maybe I’m just old. At 58 years old, I don’t really feel old but in the eyes of a teenager or toddler, I’m ancient. My hair and beard is gray/white, my walk has slowed a bit, I have to rest a bit more than what I used to, so I can see where it may appear I am old, but unless I am spoken to rather than just judged on my appearance, how will anyone know who I am and what I can share.

I’m writing this because there is a huge issue in our society right now regarding ageism.
Ageism is described as : stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. The term was coined in 1969 by Robert Neil Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.

Today, the term is often applied to any type of age-based discrimination, whether it involves prejudice against children, teenagers, adults, or senior citizens.
Throw in Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia-Related Illnesses and that just deepens the issue.

Although the term was coined in 1969, I haven’t really noticed the trend until recently. I started wondering, is it because I am growing older (almost 60)  or is it because I have Alzheimer’s Disease? Is it a combination of both?

I read an article this morning by my friend and Pioneer Network President & CEO Penny Cook, entitled, A New Culture of Aging — Making it HappenIn her article she states, “The first step of changing perception is creating awareness.” Creating awareness is something I know  a lot about.

I see and hear, on a daily basis, how those of us who are living with a Dementia-Related Illness are treated. As much as we would like, we are not treated as we were before our diagnosis.
Our diagnosis becomes a label.
That label carries with it, Stigmatization.
Stigmatization carries negative connotations.

I REFUSE TO BE LABELED!!!

So, I use my Alzheimer’s: Up Close presentation to educate and share awareness. It showcases that just because we reach a certain age or just because we have some sort of “cognitive difficulty” doesn’t mean we don’t matter. On the contrary. We probably matter more NOW than what we ever did.

The reason being, we can talk about:

  • what we want/need instead of assuming you already know
  • seeing us and not our disease
  • seeing us and not our age or appearance
  • connecting with us and not shoving us in a corner
  • DON’T pre-judge

There are always 2 sides . . . what we think and what you may think.
Those sides may differ slightly or dramatically but you would never know unless you ask. Responsibility as to what we can do and what we expect from others allow our voices to be heard.

In another article I read, written by Kendra Cherry for “verywell Mind”  “How Does Ageism Impact More Than Just Older Adults?”  it states: “In one study published in a 2013 issue of The Gerontologist, researchers looked at how older people were represented in Facebook groups. They found 84 groups devoted to the topic of older adults, but most of these groups had been created by people in their 20s. Nearly 75 percent of the groups existed to criticize older people and nearly 40 percent advocated banning them from activities such as driving and shopping.”

This is disturbing that individuals, who know nothing about us, are passing judgement on us, making assumptions about us and criticizing us because we have reached a certain age. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however, using those opinions with no knowledge as to who these individual are is ludicrous. It is also a classic example of Ageism.

I could probably go on forever, citing more examples, quoting more articles, but I think you get the picture.

I may not be able to end Ageism today, but I sure can (and will) continue to make some noise about it. I’m a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, however,  I will continue sharing awareness and educating that NO ONE has the right to pass judgment on another based on race, nationality, sexuality, age, as well as other “ism’s.” If you want to know more, don’t opinionate, just ask. We’ll be happy to talk with you!

PEACE!
Brian LeBlanc
International Alzheimer’s Advocate
“I have Alzheimer’s, BUT . . . it DOESN’T have me!