Elderly as a Vulnerable Population

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Elderly as a Vulnerable Population

According to the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (2002),

vulnerability is the ability to “Be easily physically, emotionally, or mentally

hurt, influenced or attacked.” At any given time, anyone can become

vulnerable. Demographically, the nature of society is changing. The

population of older people is dramatically increasing. The U.S Census

Bureau states that the population of people greater than 65 is projected to

double by the year 2030 and at the same time increase from 12 to 20 percent

of the population. This same population is considered to be a vulnerable

group of people by society. Focus on the elderly is needed because the

demographic changes will pose challenges to meet their growing needs

physically, mentally and financially. Also, additional services will be needed

to address and treat chronic and disabling conditions. Education from

research will need to be implemented to alter negative perceptions of aging.

Medicare and social security is not able to support this projected growth and

untreated illnesses will cause the elderly to lose their independence and

prevent them from staying in their homes. The elderly are stereotyped as

requiring special care due to poor health, poor finances, and lack of social

support. Stereotyping of the elderly population leads to biased opinions

which in turn may cause disrespect, mistreatment, and abuse. According to

Kharicha and Lliffe (2007) “GPs may consider older people living alone to

be an ‘at-risk” group worthy of interventions, although there is some

evidence that those living alone are a robust group” (p.273). As the elderly

population increases, it is important to understand the impact to family,

health, and social institution. Biased opinions are formed from ignorance.

“Society does not understand much about aging today except what they see

and hear in the media and popular culture” (Novak, 2006, p7). Society

glorifies youth and not the wisdom of the elderly. Socially, aging is not

highly respected.

With the increase in life expectancy of the elderly, the demands in

healthcare will greatly increase. Healthcare workers have a good

understanding of the physical changes associated with aging but need more

education and information on the social changes. The physical changes

involve strength, vision, hearing and coordination. Socially, the elderly are

seen as frail, and forgetful and become easy targets for discrimination

against employment, social activities, and treatments.

As the population ages, more government money will be needed to take

care of the elderly. The National Institute of Aging (NIA) is an organization

that directs research to develop an understanding of the nature of aging and

to broaden the healthy active years of life. The NIH provides direction in

the research of the elderly. It works to share relevant information so that

proper programs in training and health information can be developed. The

goal of the National Association of State Units on Aging (NASUA), founded

in 1964, is to promote the advancement of social, health, and economic

policies. NASUA incorporates a diverse population of the elderly. The

organization promotes rights, self-respect, and independence. NASUA

attempts to expand opportunities and resources for the elderly. The National

Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) provides a collaborative approach to

preventing abuse, mistreatment, and exploitation by providing information

to the states at the local level. The Administration on Aging (AOA) is an

organization that reaches out to the community to provide services to help

keep the elderly at home. The goal of the AOA is to help the elderly

maintain their health and independence. Proper education on the

availability of resources will help prevent isolation...
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