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The Notion Of Ageism And Its Relationship With Older People And Social Policy

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What is meant by ageism and why is it an issue for social policy? Illustrate your answer with reference to one area of social or health care policy of your choice (e.g. health, social care, employment).

This essay aims to discuss the notion of ageism and its relationship with older people and social policy. The first paragraph will provide a basic account of nowadays UK’s society, to demonstrate the UK is now facing a serious ageing problem which needs to be tackled. The essay will then explain the relationship between ageism and age discrimination, to elucidate why this essay focuses mainly on youngster-older people ageism. Following on, measures and policies implemented by the government will also be addressed to examine the limitations of such policies in eliminating the problem of age discrimination as well as significance. Finally, this essay will end with a conclusion on the UK still fail to promote an ageism-free society and urge a further reform to tackle the issue.

The UK has an ageing society is unquestionable, with a series of reports and studies supporting this statement. According to the latest statistic released by the Office for National Statistic (ONS), the total population of the UK has exceeded to 66 million at 30 June 2017, nearly 12 million (11,989,322) people have aged 65 or above, 5.4 million aged over 75 and over 500,000 people aged over 90. (ONS, 2018f) Given this, the number of people aged 65 or over is estimated to increase by more than 40% within the next 20 years. (The State of ageing in 2019, 2019, p.4) It is a doubt that the ageing phenomenon is causing an issue to the UK society, with the younger generation possess negative attitudes towards older people. To clarify, older people within this context are regarded as people over 65 or above while younger generations are defined as people under 65 (18-64 working adults). Instead, such negative phenomena towards older people are regarded as ageism. The term ageism was first coined by Butler during a Washington post interview (1969), he used the term ‘ageism' to elucidate any unfair, injustice and ‘palpable biases' in respect with ages, this includes any negative label, stereotype, and discrimination against people because of their age. (Butler, 1969) Given this, individuals tend to treat ageism and age discrimination as one similar term, yet ageism is broader than age discrimination as it refers to deeply embedded negative beliefs about older people and the ageing process, which may then give rise to age discrimination, ‘an unjustifiable difference in treatment based solely on age' (Centre for Policy on Ageing 2009).

On the other hand, the term ageism is not specifically explaining negative attitude towards older people but also other age groups, Bytheway and Johnson added to the definition and argues that definition of ageism should also consider ageism as a belief originating in the biological variation between people and relating to the ageing process. As a result, ageism creates and reinforces anxiety and denigration towards the ageing process and stereotyping presumptions regarding competence and the need for protection. (Bytheway and Johnson, 1990) This created a trepidation within the younger generations towards the ageing process, believe that becoming old as a lapse. Therefore, it is no surprise that assumptions of the younger generations towards older people tend to be negative, such as: old as useless, unintelligent and poor (Thompson, 1996) and the disengagement theory (Cumming and Henry, 1961), the idea that older people fade away from social roles was necessary and beneficial for society, all aroused an invisible tension between the younger generations and older people, ageism is thence resulted and clustered predominantly towards older people.

Instead, older people themselves also accept these negative metaphors of aging imposed from the outside, even their inner portrait or personal metaphor does not necessarily conform to the outer portrait. (Gary Kenyon, p.2) This labelling act may result in a self-fulfilling prophecy, which reduced older people’s motivation to strive for their deserved welfare even they have social needs, studies show that older people ‘continue to be viewed as passive recipients of care first and foremost’. (Bowers et al 2009, study) These conflicts between the two generations fostering the notion of ageism to be prevalent within the society, leading policies by states also reinforce some discrimination towards older people and excluded them to benefit fully from the valuable care resources. Therefore, this essay will now discuss in detail how ageism prevalent within the social care sector in current British society.

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Before any discussion of ageism within the social care system, three facts related to the social care system needs to be clarified. First, the adult social care system is streamed by ages, people who aged from 18 to 64 would receive work-age services while people who aged over 65 would receive the older people's services. Secondly, the main services user of the adult social care system is older people, therefore any reduction in funding towards the adult social care system would cause indirect age discrimination. (Kings Fund, 2000, p. 9) Finally, social care is partly private and partly state-funded, local authorities possess the responsibility to deliver care services to those who passed the centrally set needs and mean test. (Institute for government, 2018)

Featherstone and Hepworth (1990) argue that old age began when individuals become ‘helpless' and ‘dependent' rather than when they lived for a particular period of time. Sadly, the adult social care system holds an opposite view and set the services and funding streamed by age. Accordingly, statistics and reports show that services and treatment are largely different among the two groups, with older people being treated less harmoniously. (Robert et al.,2012; Kings Fund report, 2018; CPA 2019) The final State of Social care report (CSCI 2008, study) supported the above argument and identified institutional ageism within its research. The report suggests the wider cultural norms and mores had a significant effect on older people's treatment, whereas people's expectation towards older people tends to be lower. Most surprisingly, even carer themselves also agreed older people should have accepted a different and inferior quality of life. (CPA, 2009, P.19) Given this, a survey has been done of 100 managers in the health and care sector (Robert et al., 2012, survey), the survey found that respondent in social care services were the most subjected to ‘institutional discrimination', even the director of social services argues that ‘we presume to pay largely higher amount for residential care for younger adults. It is historical and was based on lower expectations…' (CPA, 2009, p.19) The too embedded negative stereotypes towards older people have aroused ageist attitude of care managers to assume older people deserved a more restricted of life, with limited choices and options. (JRF 2004, study; Walker and Walker, 1998) The report shows that older people in one in six care homes did not receive sufficient privacy and respect, with staff and managers in some homes talked with them impolitely, providing inadequate choices of activities or options to support their independence. (Time to listen in care Home, 2012, p.6) The problem of ageism has been heightened, wider stigmatize and stereotypes towards older people within society is now gradually infiltrated into carer's cognition. It was found that older people's care sector has a high labour turnover rate (28%) as well as vacancies. (Kings Fund report, 2018, p. 19) This is largely because payment for care workers is low and people do not see working with older people as a welcoming job. (Social Care Institute for excellence report, p.5)

On the other hand, becoming old also means lower mobility and higher risk of loneliness, studies show that men at age 65 in the UK can be expected to live independently for about half of their remaining life (ten years of their 19 years), while the picture for women is even worse with only ten years of their extra 21 years is spent without a disability on average. (The State of ageing in 2019, 2019, p.11) In light with this, the government has launched some adult social care services, varies from residential care services (care homes), nursing care services to personal care, etc., to promote and improve these disabled older people from social exclusion. (Kelly & Kenny, 2018) According to statistics, 21% of older people in England requires help for care needs from the local authority, (Triggle, 2018) with a total of 400,000 older people are in care homes now. (Laing-Busson, 2018) Among all the services users of adult social care, older people are the main services user. It was found that most of the spending on care homes services (61%) are for people aged over 65, which contributed approximately 83% of those supported in care homes. This proved that adult social care stands an important value within older people. However, statistics and studies show that funding towards older people is dramatically decreasing since 2010 due to the austerity measures by the coalition government. Studies show that the majority of local authorities have responded by cutting spending on most categories of local government-funded activities, including social care for older adults. Services in the community for older adults have seen the largest reductions, with £539 million, was taken out of the total expenditure. The large reduction in adult social care could mean indirect discrimination towards older people (Kings Fund, 2000, p. 9) and denotes how problematic the quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) was as the QALYs based largely on an estimate of the years of life remaining of an individual that disadvantages older people. (Royal College report, 2012, p. 9)

Despite the fact that social care policies normally attract little attention among the public, the state indeed implemented some programmes and policies which aims to eliminate the problem of ageism, especially in Wales. The first piece of policy was the First Strategy for Older People in Wales in 2003, aimed specifically to tackle the ageist attitude and ageism towards older people. The policy signified the state was determined to confront ageism and successfully aroused awareness among the public. Following on, the Older People's Commissioner for Wales was launched as well under the act of Parliament in 2006, intends to review and challenge discrimination against older people in Wales. The commissioner was later cooperated with the Children Commissioner in 2017, to release a set of online resources to support communities establishing Intergenerational Practice(IP), changing the negative perceptions of older and younger people. (Older people's commissioner for Wales, 2019, news) Given this, the cooperation surely a pivotal one as it encourages better ideas and assumptions towards older people and helps to ease any misunderstanding or ageist ideas towards older people, against carer within the care sector to treat older people on biases. Furthermore, the new National living wage (NLW) was launched in 2016 and performed a significant effect on carer's attitude and motivation to work with older people. Aforementioned, working with older people tends to be an unwelcoming job for carer due to low paid and historical ageism, the policy makes the hourly salary of social carer from £ 7.20 an hour to £9 an hour by 2020 (Ageuk report, 2017, p.21) which greatly raised carers' incentive to work within the elderly sector.

During the past 20 years, 12 White papers, Green Papers and other consultation regarding with social care have been launched. (Wenzel, 2008) A series of report by different institutions such as the CPA 2009, Kingsfunds 2018 have signified how serious the problem of ageism has been brought and urge further reform. Yet, little has changed and limited formal legislations had been launched since the Equality Act 2010. As stated above, the historical ageism within society is gradually infiltrated within the care sector as a carer themselves also possess a negative assumption towards older people. Therefore, it is possible to argue that only a wider context of ageism within the society being tackled, discrimination or unfair treatment towards older people within the care sector could be diminished thoroughly.


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