Older people are the back bone of our society, yet they are frequently treated poorly and suffer discrimination when seeking health care. Many older Americans receive second and third class health care because health care professionals are either not trained to care for the needs of older people, or the provider doesn’t feel that the older person’s health is important enough to warrant better care. Ageism against older Americans is a widespread practice that affects over 50% of American households with older people.When a person reaches the age of sixty, health services are sometimes based on a person’s age. For example, some health care professionals decide not to run certain tests or prescribe certain medications and treatments because they don’t feel that the tests will be beneficial, or that the medication or treatment will work for the patient. Another reason that health care professionals hesitate to provide in-depth care to older people is because they don’t want to put the person though the procedure with the assumption that it would be too tiresome or too hard on the patient. If asked, older people want to go through the tests and procedures in order to take care of their health, but many health care providers don’t ask the patients what their wishes are.In spite of public acknowledgment that ageism by the U.S. health care system does exist, no steps have been taken by the system to remove its bias against older Americans. Ageism continues to be practiced in all levels of health care. In a recent interview with Joe Reynolds,* a 71-year old Oregon resident, Reynolds stated that because he is an older person, health care providers are reluctant to treat him, and some have refused him treatment because of his age. Reynolds has diabetes, and has undergone a heart bypass. He is angry and frustrated with the medical practitioners that he has seen because he has the insurance to pay for his care, and he feels that he can tolerate the tests, procedures and medications. He declared that none of the health care providers is willing to provide the real care that he needs to live as healthy of a life as possible. Reynolds stated, “I’m old so they don’t want to do anything to help me. They don’t ask me how I feel about anything; they don’t ask me for any input about my needs. They just don’t care.”Older people like Reynolds give up and die sooner than they might have if they had been able to receive the necessary medical care. They feel like the cast-offs of society, and rightfully so. Some older people commit suicide instead of being forced to live with pain and other treatable medical conditions that they are unable to obtain treatment for.Preventive care that is routinely provided to younger people is often denied to older people. Screening for life threatening diseases and conditions is provided readily to younger people, but is grudgingly provided to older people, if it is provided at all. Older people are routinely left out when it comes to treatments such as chemotherapy, even though an older person can tolerate it just as well as a younger person. Attitude is also a factor in providing care to an older person. If the attitude of the health care professional is predisposed against providing that health care, the older person will suffer the consequences.The U.S. Health Care System needs to work harder to remove its prejudice against providing adequate and equal health care to older people, and treat them like the deserving American citizens that they are. Older people are the reason that many of our luxuries and comforts are here today. Health care partiality is not the way to treat the people that made this country.*last name changed at the request of interviewee© Copyright 2007 Patti McMann. All rights reserved.