UNR speaker: Fight age-ism

At Tuesday’s Carson City Chamber of Commerce Soup’s On luncheon, Peter Reed from the University of Nevada, Reno’s Sanford Center for Aging said discriminating against the elderly makes little sense because it is like discriminating against our future selves. Examples of currently acceptable facets include greeting cards making fun about turning 50 and cresting life’s proverbial hill, he said.

“I really challenge you to think about the way you’re interacting with the elderly,” Reed told his Carson City audience at the Gold Dust West Casino and Resort.

The world is changing rapidly and is aging, he said.

The Silver State’s population is part of that world, Reed said, with 340,000 people in the elder ranks. That is 12 percent of the population, and projections are it will jump to 16 percent by 2020, he said. Here and elsewhere, the boom in elderly folks will test limits in health care, elder care and services for the active elderly, Reed said.

“Those needs are going to expand,” he said. At the same time, the rest of society needs to jettison “notions of age-ism” that hold back both the overall society and prospects for those in or about to join the ranks of those bombarded by post-hill topper references.

Reed, the director of the Sanford Center, brings a master’s degree in public health and a doctorate in his field to a life’s work that he said began when he had three grandparents with Alzheimer’s disease. He told personal stories from that period, which he said taught him “personhood” still exists even if memory fades.

He called for “personhood-centered care” because, even if there is diminished capacity in some older people, that “doesn’t mean that they’re not still there.”

He cautioned that notions about those who are aging aren’t necessarily accurate and so someone’s elders, whether challenged or still robust, must be dealt with via a “personhood approach” rather than based on unwarranted assumptions. One of the problems, Reed said, is that “we see it as a period of decline,” which can lead to a hobbled rather than enabled elder-hood. He said older people make up a varied group.

“They’re probably the most diverse group in our society,” he said.

Reed said his Sanford unit at UNR has not only education and research missions, but particularly one involving community service.

“We actually offer direct services,” he said, recounting some. He told of seminal plans for a geriatric outpatient clinic to help shepherd people through the aging process. It is in the early planning stages and at least 18 months away, Reed said.

He said the center he heads also is mounting a collaborative effort to involve the community at large in making advances in aging services, noting a first effort in that regard. It is a talk by the author of the book “Dementia Beyond Drugs: Changing the Culture of Care” from 4-5 p.m. Feb. 18. It will be at UNR’s Pennington Health Sciences Building. The author is G. Allen Power.


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