Dr. Vânia de la Fuente-Núñez is an international expert in ageism. His crusade is to put an end to the idea that as we get older we become broken toys. Looking at the elderly with sorrow and closing doors to them makes no sense and she proves it. October 1 is the World Day of Older Persons, serve this interview as a reflection on this phenomenon.
I know I'm nothing original, but what is ageism? Ageism includes our way of thinking, feeling and acting towards other people or towards ourselves as a function of age. In this way, when we talk about ageism, we talk about three different dimensions that we apply based on age: stereotypes (thoughts), prejudices (feelings), and discrimination (actions). Ageism affects us all, when we are young and when we are older.Why is a doctor dedicated to combating ageism? I ended up here after noting that we were late in the consultation. For me, a health system – and not a disease system – should focus on disease prevention and health promotion. This involves taking into account our environments and people's living situations. This approach made me discover that ageism permeates our social environment, conditioning access to resources, health care, employment or education; In addition, it causes injustices and inequalities in health when we are older. For example, it shortens our life expectancy, and worsens physical and mental health. My work involves helping to change our social and material environment and thereby improve our health and well-being in old age.What does the WHO do to prevent us from 'parking' the elderly? WHO is leading the global campaign against ageism for which I was responsible until the end of 2022. As part of that campaign, we worked very hard to produce the first UN World Report on Ageism. This report provides evidence about this phenomenon and is a powerful tool to attract attention and drive commitments and actions by governments and other stakeholders. Describe age-related stereotypes to me. This question is complicated because it depends a lot on the context or even the country. For example, in the work context, stereotypes of older people as inflexible, unproductive or unreliable, and of young people as disloyal, narcissistic or energetic are common. In the health field, the stereotype of older person as asexual and depressed and of young person as drug user and anxious is common. The important thing is to know that all stereotypes, being generalizations, are inaccurate and can be harmful. A Japanese minister told his citizens that they should be ashamed of themselves for being long-lived and burdening the state. Why are countries so selfish? This is regrettable. There is a widespread obsession about the potential economic impacts of ageing that prevents us from appreciating and taking advantage of the significant and growing contributions of older people economically and socially. This predominant discourse does not correspond to reality, to data. For example, in 2014, workers aged 50 and over earned one in three dollars in G20 countries and by 2035, they are estimated to generate almost 40% of all income. In Spain, a recent study shows that the economic impact of residents over 50 was equivalent to almost a third of GDP. It is time to question these erroneous approaches, to return to the evidence and to understand the costs in the elderly population as an investment and not as an expense. There are examples of good practice in different countries. For example, in Uruguay, the legal framework prohibits any discrimination on the basis of age. In Spain, last year a law was passed (the so-called Zerolo Law).) which also aims to ensure equal treatment and non-discrimination on different grounds, including age. However, no country has found the key. According to the World Report on Ageism, in Spain, about 45% of the population reports having perceived discrimination against people aged 55 or older. It must also be said that in Europe in general, one in three people report having suffered unfair treatment due to their age, with people between 15 and 24 years old reporting the most discrimination, followed by older people. Yes and no. While it is true that being younger increases the likelihood that someone will be an ageist, there is also a lot of ageism in the older population. Let me explain. There are studies that show that some older people come to discriminate and manifest a lot of ageism towards other older people to try to prevent others from associating them with the older population and thus not suffer the stigma associated with old age. This situation is distressing. On October 5, she will participate in a debate in El Tiempo de las Mujeres, an event of EL MUNDO and Yo Dona, together with one of the youngest judges, Marta Campo, and a professor of Medicine, expert in proton therapy, who is at the forefront at age 68, Felipe Calvo. All three are the example that ageism can be combated. Do you think that breaking this trend of shutting down staff because of their age is more personal than political? Both the personal and the political must be combined. We must break these trends by ensuring that we do not have practices and laws that restrict opportunities based on age and, at the same time, we have to question and confront the stereotypes with which we have grown up in order to eliminate them. But I want to emphasize that institutions are crucial.Do women have a better attitude towards ageism? I do not know if women have a better attitude, what studies do show is that being a man increases the probability that the person is ageist towards older people, but it would be necessary to study why this is so. Companies have a lot to keep quiet about when it comes to discriminating against older employees or, directly, firing them. What do you propose to HR managers? I would rather say that companies have a lot to say and to explain. The work environment is one of the areas where we see more ageism; from hiring and working conditions to growth opportunities and firing. Much remains to be done to eradicate it and HR managers should ensure fair hiring processes using, for example, blind resumes; develop age-sensitive diversity, equity and inclusion policies; and encourage the creation of multigenerational templates that boost creativity.Is technology ageist? The advancement of technology takes place at the same time as the aging population and both changes are not being integrated as they should. Older people are excluded from the processes of conceptualization and development of new technologies and there is no investment in digital literacy and infrastructure that facilitates access to technology in old age. On the other hand, older people are often stereotyped as technophobic, however many are highly willing to learn. Ask for three urgent things to end ageism. Three strategies work: policies and laws prohibiting discrimination and inequality on the basis of age; education about ageism and aging and intergenerational activities that give us an opportunity to share experiences and passions with people of different ages to ours and facilitate understanding.