Robert Butler coined the term “ageism”. Butler described ageism in three realms: stereotypes and prejudices against older adults, discrimination against individuals, and institutional practices and policy that disadvantage older adults or perpetuate discrimination. He believed that ageism accounts for disregard for older people's rights seen in public policy. He saw it in the failure of institutions to address the needs of older people or protect their rights, citing as evidence government's failure to protect older people against mistreatment or to enforce nursing home regulations. He saw it in the lack of attention to older people in disaster preparedness plans and in the institutional ageism that leaves many older people impoverished and vulnerable. Although Butler and others saw ageism as standing alongside other “isms” other forms of injustice and discrimination it never achieved their traction. This chapter explores why. The chapter discusses elder abuse, ageism in healthcare, workplace, and public policy and politics.
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This introductory chapter presents a brief description of the book and its contents. It begins with description of the concepts of truth, justice, and the American way. This book assumes that advocates for older people can increase their effectiveness by achieving a clearer understanding of Americans’ not-so-self-evident nor inalienable rights. It explores how social justice and human rights principles have applied to older adults in the past and are viewed today. The book examines how the interests of older adults compare to and are intertwined with those of other groups. In essence, it frames elder justice as the intersection between aging policy and policy that promotes human rights and justice. Finally, the chapter describes the organization of the book and presents a brief overview of each chapter.