We all pay the price for ageism – our negative views of old age. Most of us will need some form of care as we age, yet the work force of geriatrics and gerontology is shrinking. I argue, as this article in the NYT does, that our views about old age discourage younger people to enter into professions related to health and human services for the elderly.
Our challenge is to incentivize entry into the fields of gerontology. And rational arguments don’t do the job. We frequently remind students of two main facts: Most of us will reach older age and older people will become the larger population sector in the United States pretty soon. But they, young students, want to learn about global health, sexuality, obesity, and the environment.
I do not think we have the answers to this challenge yet and it will take a combination of factors: likely, we will rely on recent immigrants for the supply of care; in our market economy we would need to increase financial rewards for those working in geriatrics; and we would have to re-conceptualize old age, which is the most difficult task we face.