Maybe you never thought about it before, but as an older American, you could be a victim of discrimination based on your age.

How does age discrimination fit into healthcare? It can happen in a couple of different ways. Sometimes physicians chalk up symptoms to normal aging, and ignore them. Oftentimes these symptoms are indications of true problems, that can be improved through treatment. Other times they view pain, depression, and anxiety as unavoidable in older people, and they may unconsciously view older people as less worthy or less important than their younger counterparts.

The end result? Many older Americans are getting under-treated for some conditions. And even more importantly, physicians may be missing the signs of elder abuse – chalking up bruises to the side effects of anticoagulant therapies, when in fact they represent mistreatment or rough handling by caregivers.

It even seems that our drug approval system discriminates against older people. Clinical drug trials, which are so important to getting new and better treatments to those who need them, often ignore this segment of the medical population, even though nearly 40% of older Americans take five or more medications.

With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, it’s vital that we address ageism in medical care, and take steps to correct the inequities in our system. If the first step towards addressing the problem is recognizing that it exists, we’ve clearly taken it. Now we have to take definitive measures to fix it.


Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.