What is Ageism?

Wikipedia defines ageism as “stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age.” Jill Vitale-Aussem, The Executive Director of CLC’s Clermont Park Retirement Community has been part of the LeadingAge Leadership Academy and has been studying this practice. A white paper she and her team wrote was recently published by LeadingAge Magazine. The thinking reflected in this study is changing the way residents of retirement communities can be accepted and loved, no matter what happens. It’s a vital part of CLC’s approach to resident care.

Here’s an excerpt from the paper…

Moriah Bernhardt, director of community life at Clermont Park, a Denver, CO, CCRC that has been working on eliminating ageism, ableism and segregation for three years, says the community knew there would be significant challenges and opposition from residents and staff, but leadership held firm because they had seen first-hand the damage that was being done. “We realized that challenging the status quo would likely not come from residents who had become accustomed to this culture,” says Bernhardt, “but after we started changing things we quickly found many residents who shared our beliefs. They just needed a voice of leadership to take action.”

NOT ageismThe community went from one with a significant divide between those who lived in independent living and those who lived in the nursing home, or “the dying center” as residents once called it, to a true community where people with different needs and levels of ability regularly come together through dining, programs and outings. And it’s not the paternalistic relationship the community used to see when more “able” residents felt pity for those who were frail. Instead, they are equals. “Once people started knowing each other as human beings, they stopped defining each other by their disabilities,” adds Bernhardt. The culture of inclusivity is now so deeply rooted that residents educate each other when someone is making discriminatory remarks or not honoring another resident.

For more of this fascinating study, here is a link to the full story.

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