Monday, February 14, 2005


A recent article from the washington post discussed ageism in the workplace, using an example from medicine.

They discuss the steps many take to hide their age in order to get a job, and how many seniors internalize the prejudices they experience for being older. In light of my mother's own difficulties in finding a job, I thought I'd research the topic a bit more.

In a statement before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Daniel Perry argues for better geriatrics training in medical school. Geriatric patients risk facing "inappropriately invasive procedures" or being denied life-saving measures due to their age. He argues that geriatric patients are not adequately screened for disease (though I would argue that this holds for any number of patient groups.)

Of particular interest to me, is that the Alliance for Aging Research found that "older people are systematically excluded or discouraged from participating in the clinical trials that determine the safety and efficacy of new therapeutic drugs, even though older people predominate as the end users of pharmaceutical therapies." I must admit that I know little of the factors that go into the selection of subject demographics for clinical trials, but it seems that along with increasing the numbers of women and minorities in such trials, an effort should be made to also include geriatric patients. However, Mr. Perry does not acknowledge that such patients often have medical conditions or are on medications that would preclude their participation in most trials.

My medical school has taken some steps to increase our awareness of geriatrics in general. During our orientation, we went to an assisted living community to interview the residents about their healthcare experiences, and their thoughts on how medicine is practiced today. The topic of elderly relationships was a significant point of discussion in our sexual health class. First year students were encouraged to apply for a special geriatrics program, which allowed ~10 students to get a better idea of how geriatric medicine is practiced.

Is that enough? Maybe not given the increasing elderly population, though I can only assume that more attention will be paid to the issue as the years go by. Until then, I'm going to call my mom and suggest a few ways she can "hide" her age as she goes about her search for a new job...