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Is Ageism Putting Your Healthcare in Jeopardy?

“Things your Doctor shouldn’t be telling you for $500, Alex.”

“What is ‘You’re not getting any younger. What do you expect?’”

Let’s see if this experience is familiar to you. Have you ever gone to the doctor for a very specific ailment or injury that you’ve never experienced before only to be told that “things like this just happen at your age” or “you’re not getting any younger – you’re going to have those types of aches?” Some call it lazy, and others might say it’s incompetence, but the geriatric medical community is calling it something else. They are saying that doctors might not be considering RealAge®, which is a concept that looks at your health relative to activity and physical condition rather than calendar years. That bias could be preventing you from receiving the best healthcare possible.

Sharecare is a digital health and wellness company created by the famous doctor and TV star Dr. Oz and his digital health partner, Jeff Arnold. They created a healthcare platform that is designed to help people, workforces, and communities optimize their wellbeing and increase their impact on the world around them. The platform is designed to help users live a healthier lifestyle and adhere to medicine and treatment programs while working towards health goals. 

And it all starts with the RealAge® test.

The test asks you a series of questions to assess your health and fitness level compared to norms for your age. Some of the factors are routine. You are asked about fitness levels, blood pressure, tobacco use, eating habits, etc. But, some of the questions deviate from the normal lines of questioning for health screening: “How often do you worry about financial issues?,” “How many times did you feel a sense of worry yesterday?,” and so on. Mental health and stress play a huge role in determining your RealAge®, and a key role in your physical health and wellbeing.

Dr. Mike Roizen is the Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic, and he is an expert on ageism and how it affects medical treatment for the elderly. In a recent Q&A piece he did for Online Athens, Dr. Roizen pointed out that “We estimate that those over age 65 are now more productive and generating more tax revenue than those under age 30!” This means that this perceived “glass ceiling” for health that used to exist at 65 is being raised, even though our government healthcare programs don’t seem to be keeping up with that data. It mean that physicians should be looking beyond the number next to age on your chart when assessing health and diagnosing issues.

McGregor’s Chief Marketing Officer Lee Ann O’Brien offers an interesting perspective on age bias in healthcare as well as life in general: 

“While we would agree that ageism definitely has its challenges as well as conscious and unconscious bias in medicine, it exists not only in the healthcare industry, but in other walks of life. Watching PGA golf, it’s remarkable how often the commentators mention the age of a top-ranked golf professional, especially as they near the age of 50. I recall the frequent references to Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk, both 49 years of age, still having very successful careers, with broadcasters alluding to them being over the hill.”

O’Brien continues:

“With health and wellness innovations progressing and more people practicing a healthier lifestyle, most of us are experiencing a more active and vibrant lifestyle as compared to previous generations. It’s quite unexpected when people reference a certain benchmark in the aging spectrum as being ‘older.’ Most individuals in their 60’s claim to feel more like 45-years-old.  Likewise, in our industry of aging services, most residents moving into our facilities are well into their 80’s before they consider moving out of their homes and into a Residential Community.”

Make sure that your healthcare provider is looking past that age section on your chart. And it’s not enough to just eat healthy and exercise. Social interaction with others, as well as stress reduction techniques, play a huge part in extending your quality of life at a high level. If you would like to take the test, visit www.sharecare.com and find out your RealAge® and what you can do to get “younger!”