Tag Archives: ageism

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

How Do We Blunt the Impact of Ageist Stereotypes?

Senior woman make-up face on white background

By Jeff McCarthy, MA (University of Windsor) & Anne Baird, PhD (University of Windsor)

In Western societies, negative stereotypes about being an older person predominate. However, these patterns vary across groups and across times. Typically, researchers study ways to diminish the negative impact of stereotypes on two groups:

  • younger adults, to whom these negative stereotypes are not applied by others or themselves4
  • older adults, to whom these negative stereotypes likely are applied both by others and themselves.

Reducing the impact of these stereotypes on older people themselves has been the subject of some interesting recent studies.

 

When we look at the way older people are shown in and participate in traditional and social media, we see both progress and continued shortcomings. On the one hand, a study of Super Bowl commercials from 2010 to 2014 suggested more appearances of older characters than in earlier traditional media1. Moreover, the portrayal of these characters overall was more positive than in the past.

 

On the other hand, the use of social media by older people and the description of them in these media are far from optimal. Social media are potential avenues for older people to address ageism directly and advocate for themselves, but inaccessibility of design, failure to appreciate the value of social media, and worries about privacy keep some older people from pursuing these avenues9.

 

A review of over 80 public Facebook groups related to aging uncovered overwhelmingly unfavorable comments about older people in all but one5. In addition to the lack of participation by older people, Levy and colleagues5 give several reasons for this harsh negative bias. These reasons include:

  • the fact that creators of these sites were younger rather than older people
  • the known tendency for stereotypes of all kinds to become more negative as an individual’s contact with social media increases5.

The lack of participation by older people and the prominence of negative aging stereotypes on social media work to accentuate unfavorable views about aging9.

 

So, how do we deal with this?

 

Most people would be tempted to shine a light on these negative stereotypes. By bringing them to attention, we can reduce them, right? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be that easy. Ironically, while some interventions with explicit focus on the stereotypes may help (e.g., imagined intergroup contact10), there is growing evidence that this approach can backfire.

 

Many education-based interventions that provide information regarding stereotypes essentially suggest suppressing thoughts about negative stereotypes, which usually doesn’t work. For example, try not to think about a pink elephant — what are you thinking about now? Further, teaching groups about stereotype threat may serve to activate these same threats later7. Even explicit focus on positive age-related stereotypes can end up reinforcing antiquated beliefs — both negative and positive3.

 

Research has shown that as we get older, we increasingly perceive ourselves to feel younger than our chronological age11. These perceptions may shield us from negative stereotypes. In fact, some older people do not identify themselves as a member of their chronological age group; a term called “age-group dissociation.”

 

Age-group dissociation may:

  • protect older people from applying negative age stereotypes to themselves,
  • reinforce their feelings of being more youthful than their chronological age, and
  • expand their sense of future time left11.

 

However, there also may be unfavorable effects of age-group dissociation. Older people who do not view themselves as such may not complete important tasks, such as writing advanced directives11. In other words, age-group dissociation probably is not an entirely satisfactory response to negative stereotypes about getting older.

 

On a more positive note, recent research suggests that self-compassion may be key to developing more balanced beliefs about one’s status as an older person2,8. Using self-compassion to blunt the effect of negative aging stereotypes in older people is a relatively new strategy, although self-compassion and the related constructs of self-acceptance and self-love are not new6. Self-compassion can be defined as unconditional care towards oneself when one is going through difficult times8.

 

Phillips and Ferguson8 found that higher self-compassion was linked with more positive affect and a greater sense of personal wholeness and meaning in older people. Similarly, greater self-compassion in middle-aged women was associated with more positive attitudes towards aging2. Helping older people nurture self-compassion may be a better way to reduce the influence of negative aging beliefs on older people than a direct attack on those stereotypes.

 

References:

1Brooks, M., Bichard, S., & Craig, C. (2016). What’s the score?: A content analysis of mature adults in Super Bowl commercials. Howard Journal of Communications27(4), 347-366. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10646175.2016.1206046

2Brown, L., Bryant, C., Brown, V., Bei, B., & Judd, F. (2015). Self-compassion, attitudes to ageing and indicators of health and well-being among midlife women. Aging & Mental Health20(10), 1035-1043. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13607863.2015.1060946

3Kay, A., Day, M., Zanna, M., & Nussbaum, A. (2013). The insidious (and ironic) effects of positive stereotypes. Journal Of Experimental Social Psychology49(2), 287-291. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2012.11.003

4Kotter-Grühn, D. (2015). changing negative views of aging: implications for intervention and translational research. Annual Review Of Gerontology And Geriatrics35(1), 167-186. http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/0198-8794.35.167

5Levy, B., Chung, P., Bedford, T., & Navrazhina, K. (2014). Facebook as a site for negative age stereotypes. The Gerontologist54(2), 172-176. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geront/gns194

6Muris, P., & Petrocchi, N. (2016). Protection or vulnerability? A meta-analysis of the relations between the positive and negative components of self-compassion and psychopathology. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cpp.2005

7Nelson, T. (2015). Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination (2nd ed.). New York: Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis Group.

8Phillips, W., & Ferguson, S. (2012). Self-compassion: a resource for positive aging. The Journals Of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences And Social Sciences68(4), 529-539. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbs091

9Trentham, B., Sokoloff, S., Tsang, A., & Neysmith, S. (2015). Social media and senior citizen advocacy: an inclusive tool to resist ageism? Politics, Groups, And Identities3(3), 558-571. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2015.1050411

10Turner, R., Crisp, R., & Lambert, E. (2007). Imagining intergroup contact can improve intergroup attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations10(4), 427-441. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1368430207081533

11Weiss, D., & Lang, F. (2012). “They” are old but “I” feel younger: Age-group dissociation as a self-protective strategy in old age. Psychology and Aging27(1), 153-163. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0024887

 

Biographies:

 

Jeff McCarthy is a PhD candidate in the Clinical Neuropsychology program at the University of Windsor in Ontario. His clinical and research interests involve incorporating technology, therapeutic assessment, and a focus on everyday functioning into neuropsychological rehabilitation and management of neuropsychology disorders. He also has an explicit focus on prospective memory and its function in both healthy adults and in those with acquired brain injury and memory impairment.

 

Dr. Anne Baird is an Associate Professor on the Clinical Neuropsychology track in the Psychology Department at the University of Windsor in Ontario. She has a long-standing research and clinical interest in understanding and supporting everyday function and problem-solving in normal and cognitively-impaired older people.

 

Image source: iStockPhoto


Filed under: Aging Tagged: ageism, aging, healthy aging, self-acceptance, self-compassion, stereotype threat, stereotypes, stereotyping

Are You Guilty of Positive Ageism?

blog-positive-ageism

By Sharron Hinchliff, PhD (Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield UK)

Every year, on October 1st,  we celebrate the International Day of Older Persons. The theme for 2016 is ‘Take a Stand against Ageism.’

What is ageism?

Ageism is the term used to describe prejudice towards and/or discrimination against an individual based on their age. It is rooted in stereotyping, where we cluster perceived traits together and make assumptions based on social categories. Its effects can be powerful and damaging.

Ageism against older people is widespread, and in Western countries we hear about:

  • people not being allowed to serve on a jury after age 70,
  • older patients not being given the same advice about a health condition as their younger counterparts,
  • the fewer opportunities to progress at work once one is past the age of 50, and
  • the older woman who is unlikely to be believed when she reports her sexual assault.

These are just a few examples.

People are treated differently because of their (older) age on a regular basis, and we are not always attuned to it. Ageism is taken for granted so much so that we may not even notice it when it is happening. It is something that can affect us all and is more tolerated than racism and sexism, with many arguing that it is ‘socially-condoned’ (North & Fiske, 2012).

Ageism can affect young people, but it is mainly thought about in relation to old people. And because it is a form of discrimination and prejudice, it can be negative or positive. However, we rarely hear about the latter and as a consequence few recognize that ageism has this alternative side.

What is positive ageism or ‘sageism’?

You may have heard the saying ‘the older the wiser’? It connects with stereotypes of older people as having gained wisdom through their longevity and life experiences (Palmore, 1999), and has been described as ‘sageism’ (Minichiello, Browne & Kendig, 2000: 268):

“With sageism, people interact with older people as venerated elders who are respected for their knowledge and experience. There is potential for negative effects, however, if the elder cannot meet such expectations.”  

They go on to describe how, in their study, older participants felt that they were being sought out for their wisdom and listened to more. However, older people did not always enjoy this ‘unexpected respect’ as it created a pressure when they could not live up to these expectations but did not want to let the younger people down.

Indeed, Jill Chonody (2016) argues that positive stereotypes of older people

‘may appear to be emphatic, but they are actually paternalistic in nature and support ageist behaviours, which can be detrimental to older adults’ (p.208).

She uses the example of asking older people for advice (a positive ageism item on the Relating to Older People scale):

“There is nothing about age per se that makes individuals better conversationalists or even better at giving good advice. Furthermore, if we replaced old peoplewith another social categorization, such as gay men, these statements would be somewhat laughable (re: I enjoy conversations with gay men because they are gay).” (Chonody & Teater 2016: 12)

Some academics note the link between positive ageing and positive ageism. Positive ageing grew out of a dissatisfaction with ageing being portrayed negatively, and thus it challenges the ageing-as-decline narrative. But, it has an unexpected consequence as it can become a form of ageism in itself. Sally Chivers (2003) applies this argument to older women’s bodies and physical appearance, telling us that positive ageism occurs through the process of promoting an impossible youthfulness and a denial of bodily decline. This is damaging because, as above, it forms an expectation that older women cannot live up to.

The same is happening with regard to older people and sexual activity. In my own work, I have seen a shift over the past few years from older people being viewed as asexual to sexually agentic. By challenging the asexual stereotype, an unintended effect was the creation of a new stereotype where all older people are expected to be sexually active if they are to age well. A failure to maintain sexual agency/autonomy is perceived as submitting to old age.

So, while positive ageism can be positive because it celebrates rather than denigrates older age, it can be detrimental too. In whatever form ageism takes, positive or negative, there is a risk that it does more to reinforce inequality than address it. 

 

References:

Chivers, S. (2003). From old women to older women: Contemporary culture and women’s narratives. USA: Ohio State University Press.

Chonody, J.M. (2016). Positive and negative ageism: The role of benevolent and hostile sexism. Journal of Women and Social Work, 31(2), 207-218.

Chonody, J. M., & Teater, B. (2016). Why do I dread looking old?: A test of social identity theory, terror management theory, and the double standard of aging. Journal of Women and Aging, 28(2), 112-126.

Minichiello, V., Browne, J., & Kendig, H. (2000). Perceptions and consequences of ageism: Views of older people. Ageing and Society, 20(03), 253-278.

North, M. S., & Fiske, S. T. (2012). An inconvenienced youth? Ageism and its potential intergenerational roots. Psychological Bulletin, 138(5), 982.

Palmore, E. (1999). Ageism: Negative and positive. New York: Springer.

 

Biography:

Sharron Hinchliff, PhD, is Senior Lecturer at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield UK. She has a BMedSci (Hons) and a PhD in psychology. Her research spans the areas of ageing, gender and sexual/reproductive health, as well as the psychology of health and health care. Sharron is co-editing the forthcoming book ‘Addressing the sexual rights of older people: Theory, policy and practice’ which is due for publication in 2017. For further details about Sharron’s work, see sharronhinchliff.com.

Image source: Flickr user Nick Moralee via Creative Commons


Filed under: Aging Tagged: ageism, discrimination, positive ageism, prejudice, sageism, stereotypes, stereotyping, stress

Why We Should Celebrate Senior Citizens Everyday

blog-senior-citizens-day

By Sheri R. Levy, PhD1, Jamie L. MacDonald1, and Ashley Lytle, PhD2 (1Stony Brook University and 2Stevens Institute of Technology)

Have you heard of National Senior Citizens Day? If not, you aren’t alone. This holiday is not often listed on most, if any, calendars. There are usually no headlines or special sales or promotions that accompany this holiday. Why is National Senior Citizens Day virtually forgotten? Probably for the same reasons that led to its establishment in 1988 by President Reagan.

Older adulthood is not universally celebrated and valued.  Ageism (negative attitudes and behavior toward older adults) continues to be a “serious national problem” since it was first discussed by Robert N. Butler, M.D. in 1969. Butler later wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book, “Why Survive? Being Old in America” and became the first Director of the National Institute on Aging in the United States.

Historically, older members of our society were valued for their vast knowledge and contributions to society.  Fast forward to our current society, which has a well-established and profitable market of greeting cards, t-shirts, and other products that portray older adulthood in a negative light, for example being “over the hill.” Our youth-centered society supports a billion dollar industry of “anti-aging” creams, treatments and surgeries, to reduce signs of aging.

Frequent headlines exaggerating the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease add to fears and worries about older adulthood. Save the relatively rare coverage of positive images and outlooks on aging, even though older adulthood can be a fulfilling and happy time in one’s life. In fact, studies show that many older adults report being happy and satisfied with their lives.

Medicare and social security are constantly targets for budget cuts, despite alarming rates of poverty and financial problems among older adults. Forced early retirement and incidents of age discrimination toward older workers are on the rise. Reports of elder abuse (both financial and physical abuse) by health care workers and by family members are also increasing.

Adults aged 65 and over are the largest and fastest growing age group in our society.  It’s long overdue to celebrate senior citizens both on August 21 and other days, too. The 1988 Proclamation is still relevant today.

“Throughout our history, older people have achieved much for our families, our communities, and our country. That remains true today, and gives us ample reason this year to reserve a special day in honor of the senior citizens who mean so much to our land.

With improved health care and more years of productivity, older citizens are reinforcing their historical roles as leaders and as links with our patrimony and sense of purpose as individuals and as a Nation. Many older people are embarking on second careers, giving younger Americans a fine example of responsibility, resourcefulness, competence, and determination. And more than 4.5 million senior citizens are serving as volunteers in various programs and projects that benefit every sector of society. Wherever the need exists, older people are making their presence felt — for their own good and that of others.

For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute. We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older — places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.”

Isn’t it time to celebrate older adults?

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

Carstensen, L. (2011). Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_carstensen_older_people_are_happier

Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-270. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.2.261

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

Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 1-22. doi:10.1111/josi.12153

McGuire, S. L., Klein, D. A., & Couper, D. (2005). Aging Education: A National Imperative. Educational Gerontology, 31(6), 443-460. doi:10.1080/03601270590928170

Ng, R., Allore, H.G., Trentalange, M., Monin, J.K., & Levy, B.R. (2015). Increasing negativity of age stereotypes across 200 years: Evidence from a database of 400 million words. PLoS ONE, 10, e0117086. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117086

Pillemer, K., Connolly, M., Breckman, R., Spreng, N., & Lachs, M. S. (2015). Elder mistreatment: Priorities for consideration by the White House Conference on Aging. The Gerontologist, 55(2), 320-327. doi:10.1093/geront/gnu180

 

Biographies: 

Sheri R. Levy is an Associate 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).

Ashley Lytle is an Assistant Professor at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, USA. Ashley earned her PhD from Stony Brook University, New York, USA.  Her research explores how prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping impact social and health outcomes among marginalized groups. For example, much of Ashley’s research has focused on better understanding prejudice toward older adults and sexual minorities, with the ultimate goal of creating simple, yet effective, interventions to reduce prejudice. She also examines how intergroup contact and beliefs systems relate to prejudice as well as the more applied focus of understanding factors that are involved in the reduction of prejudice and stigmatization.

Jamie L. Macdonald is graduate student 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).

 


Filed under: Aging Tagged: ageism, aging, healthy aging, National Senior Citizens Day, older adults, senior citizens

Ageism Alert – Get the Facts on Aging

iStock_000081536221_Medium (1) (2)By Sheri R. Levy, PhD, Ashley Lytle, and Jamie L. Macdonald (Stony Brook University, Psychology Department)

Most people hope to live long lives, yet American culture is filled with negative images of getting older. Older adulthood is thought of as a time marked by deteriorating health, poor memory, low levels of activity, loneliness, and a sense of uselessness.  The truth is that these characterizations are inaccurate and they can make us anxious about growing old. They also make us feel and behave in surprisingly negative ways toward older people – we tolerate ageist jokes, age discrimination in the workplace, as well as financial and physical abuse toward older adults.

Those negative attitudes and discriminatory behaviors are what is known as AGEISM.  Did you know that ageism can harm your own mental, cognitive, and physical health as you age?

What can you do? Get the facts on aging. People who know more about aging are less ageist and may be on the path to living longer and more carefree lives.

 

Fact or Fiction: Test your knowledge on aging 

True or False?

 

  1. The majority of old people (past 65 years) have Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. As people grow older, their intelligence declines significantly.
  3. It is very difficult for older adults to learn new things.
  4. Most older people live in nursing homes.
  5. Older workers cannot work as effectively as younger workers.
  6. Most old people are set in their ways and unable to change.
  7. The majority of old people are bored.
  8. Participation in volunteering through organizations (e.g., churches and clubs) tends to decline among older adults.
  9. Abuse of older adults is not a significant problem in the U.S.
  10. Grandparents today take less responsibility for rearing grandchildren than ever before.

 

If you answered “false” to all these questions, you have a perfect score – congratulations! If you missed some questions, you are not alone. Most people including high school students, college students, teachers, and health care professionals in training score poorly on these tests. We learn very little accurate knowledge about aging at any stage in our schools, even those of us entering professions in which we will work with older adults.

 

So, what can you do?

 

When knowledge about aging increases, ageist attitudes decrease.

Educating yourself about aging can take the form of a one-hour lecture, several lectures, a multi-month course, or through reading more about aging in academic books or scientific journals.

 

Ageism is a societal problem that touches all of us. It creates anxiety and conflict between younger and older generations. It restricts the lives and livelihood of older adults, damaging their support systems, work opportunities, health care, their thoughts about themselves, and even their physical health – some studies show that people who buy into negative ageist stereotypes live shorter lives.

 

Isn’t it time to get educated about aging?

——————————————————–

All of the knowledge of aging questions are from this 50-item measure:

 

Breytspraak, L. & Badura, L. (2015). Facts on Aging Quiz (revised; based on Palmore (1977; 1981)). Retrieved from http://info.umkc.edu/aging/quiz/

 

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

 

Carstensen, L. (2011). Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/laura_carstensen_older_people_are_happier

 

Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(2), 261-270. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.2.261

 

Levy, S.R., & Macdonald, J.L. (2016). Progress on Understanding Ageism. Journal of Social Issues, 72(1), 1-22. doi:10.1111/josi.12153

 

McGuire, S. L., Klein, D. A., & Couper, D. (2005). Aging Education: A National Imperative. Educational Gerontology, 31(6), 443-460. doi:10.1080/03601270590928170

 

Ng, R., Allore, H.G., Trentalange, M., Monin, J.K., & Levy., B.R. (2015).  Increasing negativity of age stereotypes across 200 years: Evidence from a database of 400 million words.  PLoS ONE, 10, e0117086. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117086

 

Wurtele, S. K. (2009). Activities of Older Adults survey: Tapping into student views of the elderly. Educational Gerontology, 35, 1026–1031. doi:10.1080/03601270902973557

 

 

 

Biographies: 

Sheri R. Levy, is an Associate 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).

 

Ashley Lytle is a 5th year PhD candidate at Stony Brook University working with Sheri R. Levy. Ashley received her BA from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, USA and her MA from Stony Brook University, New York, USA.  Her research explores how prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping impact social and health outcomes among marginalized groups. For example, much of Ashley’s research has focused on better understanding prejudice toward older adults and sexual minorities, with the ultimate goal of creating simple, yet effective, interventions to reduce prejudice. She also examines how intergroup contact and beliefs systems relate to prejudice as well as the more applied focus of understanding factors that are involved in the reduction of prejudice and stigmatization.

 

Jamie L. Macdonald is graduate student 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).

Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com

 


Filed under: Aging Tagged: ageism, aging, discrimination, prejudice