An elderly woman. [illustrative].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The average Israeli is an “ageist” (prejudiced against the elderly), and according to a recent poll, sees suicide by the elderly as “legitimate” and would not prevent an old person from putting an end to his life.
These were some of the more astonishing findings revealed late last week at the “Path to Life” conference of the Bishvil Hahayim organization, whose members are families with relatives who ended their life. It was held at Tel Aviv’s Kibbutzim Seminary College.
Respondents who had ageist attitudes toward the elderly were more likely to support an elderly suicide when presented as passively not prolonging a life rather than actively ending a life.
About a fifth of all Israeli suicides each year – about 100 people – are over the age of 65.
The survey, claimed by the organization as being the first of its kind in the world, dealt with public attitudes in Israel regarding suicide among the elderly.
It was conducted by Prof. Eyal Gamliel and Dr. Yossi Levy Belz at the Ruppin Academic Center.
Belz, a member of the organization’s board, said the main risk factors for elderly suicide were depression, increased physical illness, difficulties in physical functioning and loneliness.
The study examined the attitudes of the Israeli public toward suicide of the elderly and the level of “permissiveness” of suicide – the extent to which society views suicide as legitimate, reasonable and not serious, and how it allows the elderly to commit suicide.
It found a positive correlation among ageism toward the elderly, the belief that it is better to distance oneself from the elderly, that they are incapable of doing things and should be deprived of some rights. Those found to be more ageist expressed clear support for elderly suicide.
Dr. Avshalom Aderet, chairman of Path to Life, said the issue of suicide in old age is explosive and complex.
“We see the conference as a place for an open and responsible discourse that also deals with an issue that is uncomfortable and difficult for many,” he said.