Tag Archives: age discrimination

Give the Gift of Kindness to Your Elders this Holiday Season

holidays

By Sheri R. Levy, PhD, MaryBeth Apriceno, Ashley Lytle, PhD , and Jamie L. Macdonald 

 

The holiday season has a way of encouraging acts of kindness toward family, friends, and even strangers. As the holiday spirit inspires us to treat others with kindness and respect, let us not overlook older adults who tend not to receive everyday acts of kindness, gratitude, and respect.

Ageism (negative attitudes, stereotypes, and behaviors toward older adults) is a significant social problem that impacts their health and well-being.

As the World Health Organization points out:

“Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially ‘normalized’ of any prejudice, and is not widely challenged – like racism or sexism.”

Older adults face disrespectful, avoidant, and patronizing behavior as well as discrimination and even abuse in the workforce, health care, and housing. Challenging ageist stereotypes and treating older adults with respect and kindness can help confront the detrimental effects of ageism.

 

Some figures that should give us pause:

  • Nearly all depictions of older adults in publicly available Facebook groups (including more than 25,489 members) involved the use of negative ageist stereotypes5.
  • There were 20,857 age discrimination claims in employment in 2016 alone, accounting for 22.8% of all discrimination claims in employment2.
  • Ageism was the most frequently reported type of discrimination by a nationally representative sample of 6,000 American adults ages 50 and over when asked whether they experienced discrimination by doctors or hospitals11.
  • The World Health Organization estimates that 1 in 6 older adults have experienced some form of elder abuse in the past year. This abuse includes neglect as well as physical, emotional, financial, and sexual abuse.

 

What you can do to reduce ageism:

 

1. Get the facts on aging:

2. Explore tips from the World Health Organization and the United Nations 

3. Steer clear of birthday cards that poke fun of older adults, which can lead to the internalization of negative age stereotypes, and further perpetuate myths about aging.

 

Celebrate older adults throughout the year:

 

 

If you would like to learn more about this topic, the following resources might be of interest to you:

 

1Abrams, D., Swift, H.J., and Drury, L. (2016). Old and unemployable? How age-based stereotypes affect willingness to hire job candidates. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 105-121. doi 10.1111/josi.12158

2Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (January, 2017). EEOC Releases Fiscal Year 2016 Enforcement and Litigation Data. Retrieved from: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-18-17a.cfm

3Erber, J.T., & Szuchman, L.T. (2015). Great myths of aging. Wiley-Blackwell: Malden, MA

4Levy, B. R. (2009). Stereotype embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(6): 332-336.

5Levy, B.R., Chung, P.H., Bedford, T., & Navrazhina, K. (2014). Facebook as a site for negative age stereotypes. The Gerontologist, 54(2), 172–176. doi:10.1093/geront/gns194

6Levy, S.R. (2016). Toward reducing ageism: PEACE (Positive Education about Aging and Contact Experiences) Model. The Gerontologist. 10 AUG 2016, doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw116

7Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 5-25. doi: 10.1111/josi.12153

8Lytle, A., & Levy, S.R. (2017). Reducing Ageism: Education about Aging and Extended Contact with Older Adults. The Gerontologist. Article first published online: 19 NOV 2017, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnx177

9Palmore, E. B., Branch, L., & Harris, D. K. (Eds. 2005). Encyclopedia of ageism. Binghamton, NY, US: Haworth Pastoral Press.

10Pillemer, K,, Burnes, D, Riffin, C., Lachs, M.S., (2016). Elder Abuse: Global Situation, Risk Factors, and Prevention Strategies, The Gerontologist, 56, 194–205. https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw004

11Rogers, S. E., Thrasher, A. D., Miao, Y., Boscardin, W. J., & Smith, A. K. (2015). Discrimination in healthcare settings is associated with disability in older adults: Health and retirement study, 2008–2012. Journal Of General Internal Medicine, 30(10), 1413-1420. doi:10.1007/s11606-015-3233-6

12United Nations (2014). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/ageing/

13World Health Organization (September, 2015). Ageing and Health. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs404/en/

14World Health Organization (June, 2017). Elder abuse: Fact sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs357/en/

 

Biographies:

 

Sheri R. Levy is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, USA. She earned her PhD at Columbia University in New York City, USA. Levy studies factors that cause and maintain prejudice, stigmatization, and negative intergroup relations and that can be harnessed to reduce bias, marginalization, and discrimination. Her research focuses on bias based on age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and social class.  With Jamie L. Macdonald and Todd D. Nelson, Levy co-Edited a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016). Levy was Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Social Issues from 2010-2013 and is a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9 of American Psychological Association).

 

MaryBeth Apriceno is a graduate student at Stony Brook University. She received her BA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her research investigates factors that affect ageist attitudes, aging anxiety, and self-stereotyping.

 

Jamie L. Macdonald is a doctoral candidate at Stony Brook University working with Sheri R. Levy. Jamie received her BA and MA in Psychology from Stony Brook University, New York, USA. Her research investigates prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination with a focus on ageism in different contexts, like the workplace. She was a Co-Editor, with Sheri R. Levy and Todd D. Nelson, on a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016).

 

Ashley Lytle is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. Lytle earned her PhD at Stony Brook University, New York, USA.  Her research explores how prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping impact academic, social, and health outcomes among marginalized groups. Much of Lytle’s research has focused on better understanding prejudice toward older adults, sexual minorities, and women, with the ultimate goal of creating simple, yet effective, interventions to reduce prejudice.

 

Image source: iStockPhoto


Filed under: Aging, Health and Wellness Tagged: age discrimination, ageism, discrimination, holiday season, prejudice

Is Poking Fun at Birthdays a Harmless Way to Celebrate Them?

blog-ageism-birthday

By Sheri R. Levy, PhD, & MaryBeth Apriceno (Stony Brook University)

 

Have you ever noticed that the tone of birthday cards for children is upbeat with messages like, “way to go, you’re another year older”? Whereas that is rarely the theme in cards for adults older than 21, at least in the United States.

 

Next time you find yourself in a card store, read through a few birthday cards for adults. You might find one or two cards with an upbeat and pro-age sentiment like “Fifty and fabulous.”  More likely you’ll encounter a lot that reiterate false and negative stereotypes of aging and older adults — cards that exaggerate the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease, depict dramatic age-related physical changes, portray older adults as very unattractive and cranky, as well as cards that suggest older adults lack sexual interest or have inappropriate sexual interest.  Nothing appears to be off limits.

 

Likewise, the aisles for adults at party supply stores are often devoted to party supplies and gifts poking fun of older adulthood. Here you’ll encounter a lot of “over the hill” themed party supplies such as balloons and serveware. You’ll also likely see favors and gifts that refer to ageist stereotypes, like signs that say “CAUTION, slow senior zone,” over the hill potty night lights, over the hill emergency diaper kits, and over the hill canes equipped with a horn, plastic chattering teeth, and a mini fine-extinguisher.

 

Funny or foul?

 

Birthday cards and gifts that poke fun of older adulthood are communicating negative ageist stereotypes found in society, including negative depictions of older adults in books, movies, and television. Together, these negative stereotypes and images take a toll on older adults.  Negative ageist messages may be internalized over the course of a lifetime and cause older adults to adopt an older self-image.  Older adults may then tailor their behaviors to these learned stereotypes, resulting in more sedentary lifestyles, decreases in cognitive functioning, decline in overall health, and a shorter lifespan (see Levy, 2009). Such effects may be amplified in women who face ageism as well as sexism (see Chrisler, Barney, & Palatino, 2016).

 

Widespread sale of birthday cards and supplies poking fun of older adulthood indicates the accepted nature of the stereotypes they communicate and the pressing problem of ageism. In fact, the World Health Organization (2015) has noted, “Ageism may now be more pervasive than sexism or racism.”

 

Ageism affects society. It can limit intergenerational contact and undermine intergenerational harmony. It contributes to age discrimination in the workplace, worse health care and poorer health for older adults, as well as financial and physical abuse of older adults.

 

“The world is in the midst of a unique and irreversible process of demographic transition that will result in older populations everywhere” (United Nations, 2014).

It is more important than ever to take steps to reduce ageism, and this includes no longer tolerating cards and gifts that poke fun of aging and older adults.

 

If you would like to learn more about this topic, the following might be of interest to you:

 

Chrisler, J., Barney, A., & Palatino, B. (2016). Ageism can be hazardous to women’s health: Ageism, sexism, and stereotypes of older women in the health care system. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 86-104. doi: 10.1111/josi.12157

Demos, V., & Jache, A. (1981). When you care enough: An analysis of attitudes toward ageing in humorous birthday cards. The Gerontologist, 21, 209-215.

Levy, B. R. (2009). Stereotype embodiment: A psychosocial approach to aging. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 18(6): 332-336.

Levy, S.R. (2016). Toward reducing ageism: PEACE (Positive Education about Aging and Contact Experiences) Model. The Gerontologist. 10 AUG 2016, doi: 10.1093/geront/gnw116

Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 5-25. doi: 10.1111/josi.12153

United Nations (2014). Retrieved from http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/ageing/

World Health Organization (WHO; September, 2015). Ageing and Health. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs404/en/

 

Biographies:

 

Sheri R. Levy, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University, USA. She earned her PhD at Columbia University in New York City, USA. Levy studies factors that cause and maintain prejudice, stigmatization, and negative intergroup relations and that can be harnessed to reduce bias, marginalization, and discrimination. Her research focuses on bias based on age, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and social class.  With Jamie L. Macdonald and Todd D. Nelson, Levy co-Edited a special issue of Journal of Social Issues on “Ageism: Health and Employment Contexts” (Levy, Macdonald, & Nelson, 2016). Levy’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, and Levy publishes her research in journals such as Basic and Applied Social Psychology, Child Development, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, and Social Issues and Policy Review. Levy was Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Social Issues from 2010-2013 and is a Fellow of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (Division 9 of American Psychological Association).

 

MaryBeth Apriceno is a graduate student and teaching assistant at Stony Brook University. She received her BA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her research investigates factors that affect ageist attitudes, aging anxiety, and self-stereotyping.

 

Image source: Flickr user tawest64 via Creative Commons

 

 


Filed under: Aging, Health Disparities Tagged: age discrimination, ageism, aging, stereotypes, stereotyping