Published June 3 in the San Francisco Chronicle Opinion section:
I am a rare breed of physician who specializes in the care of older people – a geriatrician. More than 30,000 geriatricians are needed to care for America’s coming age boom. But shockingly, there are fewer than 6,000 and the number is dropping. The reason for this enormous shortage can be explained with a single word: ageism.
We inhabit a culture that worships youth with near religious zeal. And youth – or more accurately, our obsession with achieving an everlastingly youthful adulthood – is sucking the life out of us.
How can geriatrics compete with skyrocketing plastic surgery and a billion-dollar anti-aging industry that thrives from our obsessive search for the fountain of youth? The harsh reality is we will never attract enough doctors to geriatrics until we fix a major design flaw in the human condition. Contrary to anti-aging gurus, that flaw is not the biology of aging – it is the way our culture views the structure of the life cycle.