Learning that you have been sentenced to serve a prison term is never easy, regardless of age, gender, or race. However, as an elderly criminal sentenced to a term in jail or prison, you will face unique obstacles. Transitioning into prison life can be especially difficult for older inmates. They face both mental and physical obstacles while trying to adjust to an entirely new way of life. Furthermore, most prisons accommodate younger and healthier inmates, leading to even more challenges for elderly inmates.
Adjusting to Life in Prison
For men and women who enter prison for the first time as senior citizens, adjusting to an entirely different way of life will not happen immediately. Elderly inmates face several mental obstacles while trying to deal with new rules and a foreign culture. Of course, all inmates must adjust to prison life. But elderly prisoners are more susceptible to feeling depressed, overwhelmed, and in some cases, suicidal. As time goes by, inmates do adjust to prison life. However, it might take elderly inmates longer to come to terms with their new surroundings.
Furthermore, senior citizens are oftentimes physically frail and vulnerable. Intimidation by younger, stronger prisoners can lead to older inmates feeling fearful and overwhelmed. Older inmates will have a harder time asserting or standing up for themselves against other inmates. In addition, many elderly criminal offenders have some type of physical ailment, such as mobility problems. Older prisons might not be accessible for people with mobility problems or other physical problems. And even if older inmates don’t have physical problems when they first arrive in prison, throughout the course of their sentence, as they continue to age, they will most likely develop some kind of problem. Most prisons segregate inmates based on age, and provide geriatric facilities for elderly inmates. However, this can deprive elderly inmates the opportunity to use programs available to regular prison inmates. Health benefits and mandates also face limitations in prisons.
Correctional programs themselves get designed for younger inmates. These programs gear toward helping younger inmates improve their education, learn a vocation, and partake in physical activity. Older inmates require different kinds of stimulation. Programs for older inmates don’t get as widely implemented in prisons due to the fact that this population generally won’t compare to the size of the younger inmate population. As prisoners get older, and as new, elderly inmates face incarceration, new programs should develop in order to meet the needs of the elderly.
Transitioning into prison can seem hard, but because prisons gear toward serving the needs of young inmates, older inmates oftentimes do not receive the mental and physical care that they need. Getting imprisoned at the age of 60 or 70 can feel incredibly traumatic and overwhelming. For older people, generally set in their ways and routines, sudden changes and placement into an entirely different environment can seem incredibly difficult. Reforms have happened to make sure that the needs of elderly prisoners get met, however, these reforms need more consistency.