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Alliance Exposes Widespread Ageism in U.S. Healthcare

Published May 19, 2003

Washington, D.C.- Drawing upon scores of recent scientific studies, the non-profit Alliance for Aging Research issued a revealing report showing how systematic bias against the elderly hurts older patients in America. The report, Ageism: How Healthcare Fails the Elderly, was released today at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The Alliance’s new report cited serious short-comings in medical training, prevention screening and treatment patterns that disadvantage older patients. The report outlines five key dimensions of the ageist bias in which U.S. healthcare fails older Americans:

  1. Healthcare professionals do not receive enough training in geriatrics to properly care for many older patients.
  2. Older patients are less likely than younger people to receive preventive care.
  3. Older patients are less likely to be tested or screened for diseases and other health problems.
  4. Proven medical interventions for older patients are often ignored, leading to inappropriate or incomplete treatment.
  5. Older people are consistently excluded from clinical trials, even though they are the largest users of approved drugs.

The Alliance report set the tone for today’s Senate Special Committee on Aging hearing, “Ageism in the Healthcare System: Short Shifting Seniors?” Daniel Perry, executive director of the Alliance, revealed the contents of the report during his testimony before the Committee.

“Ageism is a particularly apparent and especially damaging frame of mind that surfaces all too often in healthcare settings where older patients predominate,” stated Perry. “Like other patterns of bias – such as racism and sexism – these attitudes diminish us all, but they can be downright deadly to older people in receiving healthcare.”

The Alliance for Aging Research warned that unless ageist attitudes are recognized and rooted out of our healthcare system, the next generation of Americans under Medicare, the largest generation in U.S. history, will likely suffer inadequate care. Therefore, the Alliance also released recommendations to address the problem of ageism:

  1. More training and education for healthcare professionals in the field of geriatrics.
  2. Greater inclusion of older Americans in clinical trials.
  3. Utilization of appropriate screening and preventive measures for older Americans.
  4. Empowerment and education of older patients.

“Medical ageism is a serious problem,” stated Senator John Breaux (D-LA), ranking member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. “This disturbing trend is evident in too many areas of health care delivery in America and, as a result, too many seniors fall through the cracks. We appreciate the work of the Alliance for Aging Research in helping to break down the culture of ageism that pervades our health care system and discriminates against older Americans.”

For a copy of Ageism: How Healthcare Fails the Elderly, log on to the Alliance website at To schedule an interview with Daniel Perry, please call Amber McCracken at 202-293-2856 or email [email protected].

Founded in 1986, the Alliance for Aging Research is a nonprofit, independent organization dedicated to supporting and accelerating the pace of medical discoveries to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging. The Alliance combines the interests of top scientists, public officials, business executives and foundation leaders to promote a greater national investment in research and new technologies that will prepare our nation for the coming senior boom, and improve the quality of life for today’s older generation.

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