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Ageism and older adult


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  • 1. 1This learning resource was prepared by:Rosemary Chapin, Ph.D.Holly Nelson-Becker, Ph.D.Theresa Gordon, LSCSWSarah Terrebonne, BASchool of Social WelfareUniversity of Kansas2002Made possible with partial funding from the Hartford Foundation and CSWE.©2002All rights reservedReprints only for educational purposes
  • 2. 2AGEISM AND THE OLDER ADULT RESOURCESBRIEF OVERVIEWAgeismPrepared ByBarrie Robinson, MSSWSchool of Social WelfareUniversity of California at Berkeley1994Made possible with partial funding fromThe Academic Geriatric Resource ProgramUniversity of California, BerkeleyPrefaceThese curriculum materials provide a basic introduction to ageism toward older adults. Although it is widelyrecognized that we live in a youth-oriented society, little attention is paid to the resulting ageism toward older adultsor how this affects our personal and professional relationships. Through didactic material, discussion questions, anda series of experiential exercises, these materials help students explore this pervasive phenomenon, including asection on how ageism can be counteracted.The materials are designed to be easily integrated into existing undergraduate and graduate-level courses, includingcourses in social welfare, public health, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and others. In doing so, it is hopedthat these materials will enhance the quantity and quality of aging content in existing courses, so that students can bebetter prepared for the intellectual and societal challenges facing an aging society. Instructors are encouraged toadapt these materials as appropriate to their particular needs. It is suggested that students complete some of theexercises in the appendix before proceeding with didactic material to help them identify their own attitudes andbiases about aging.
  • 3. 3Development of these materials was made possible by a grant from the Academic Geriatric Education Program atthe University of California at Berkeley. I am also indebted to Andrew Scharlach, Professor of Social Welfare at theUniversity of California at Berkeley for reviewing these materials and making suggestions, as well as to KrisDuermeier, graduate at the School of Social Welfare, for compiling the annotated bibliography. For furtherinformation about how these material scan best be utilized, instructors are welcome to contact Barrie Robinson atthe School of Social Welfare, University of California at Berkeley.Table of ContentsI. What is "Ageism"?II. How is Ageism Perpetuated?III. What are the Consequences of Ageism?IV. How can Ageism be Counteracted?V. AppendicesA. Exploring Attitudes About Age and AgingB. "Act Your Age!" An exercise to identify attitudes about age norms.C. What is your Aging I.Q.?D. BibliographyE. Audio Visual ResourcesNote to Instructors:It is suggested that students complete at least one of the self-assessment exercises in the appendix before proceedingwith the material.I. What is "Ageism"?The term "ageism" was coined in 1969 by Robert Butler, the first director of the National Institute on Aging. Helikened it to other forms of bigotry such as racism and sexism, defining it as a process of systematic stereotyping anddiscrimination against people because they are old. Today, it is more broadly defined as any prejudice ordiscrimination against or in favor of an age group (Palmore, 1990).Erdman Palmore, who has written extensively about ageism, lists the basic characteristics of stereotyping whichforms the basis of ageism in his 1990 book Ageism (pp. 151-152):1. The stereotype gives a highly exaggerated picture of the importance of a few characteristics.2. Some stereotypes are invented with no basis in fact, and are made to seem reasonable by association withother tendencies that have a kernel of truth.3. In a negative stereotype, favorable characteristics are either omitted entirely or insufficiently stressed.4. The stereotype fails to show how the majority share the same tendencies or have other desirablecharacteristics.
  • 4. 45. Stereotypes fail to give any attention to the cause of the tendencies of the minority group - particularly tothe role of the majority itself and its stereotypes in creating the very characteristics being condemned.6. Stereotypes leave little room for change; there is a lag in keeping up with the tendencies that actuallytypify many members of a group.7. Stereotypes leave little room for individual variation, which is particularly wide among elders.Ageism is manifested in many ways, some explicit, some implicit. The following piece by Edith Steinillustrates some graphic examples of negative ageism (Palmore, 1990, pp. 3 -4):"Older persons falter for a moment because they are unsure of themselves and are immediately chargedwith being infirm.Older persons are constantly "protected" and their thoughts interpreted.Older persons forget someones name and are charged with senility and patronized.Older persons are expected to accept the facts of aging.Older persons miss a word or fail to hear a sentence and they are charged with getting old, not with ahearing difficulty.Older persons are called dirty because they show sexual feelings or affection to one of either sex.Older persons are called cranky when they are expressing a legitimate distaste with life as so many youngdo.Older persons are charged with being like a child even after society has ensured that they are as dependent,helpless, and powerless as children."Discussion Questions1. What are some other examples of positive and negative age stereotypes affecting the elderly? youngerage groups?2. Discuss some of the underlying factors which might account for discrimination against older persons.II. How is Ageism Perpetuated?Ageist attitudes are perpetuated in many ways. Examples are abundant in the popular culture such as birthday cardswhich decry the advance of age, the lack of positive images of the elderly in advertisements and on TV programs,and the widespread use of demeaning language about old age. Some illustrative examples of such language includesuch colloquialisms as "geezer," "old fogey," "old maid," "dirty old man," and "old goat."In addition, institutions perpetuate ageism. Businesses frequently reinforce ageist stereotypes by not hiring orpromoting older workers. The American health care system focuses on acute care and cure rather than chronic carewhich most older adults need. Also, the federal laws which prohibit mandatory retirement exclude elected officialsand their staff, and highly paid executives with annual retirement benefits of at least $44,000. Other governmentpolicies which reinforce ageism include use of a higher federal poverty standard for the elderly and, job trainingtargeted for younger age groups. Another example is the use of state welfare funds which are often targeted atchildren and adolescents, excluding equivalent services for older adults such as adult protective services andgeriatric mental health services.Human service professionals also perpetuate ageism. This is done more covertly by denying or limiting services, bynot including aging issues in training material or educational offerings, and by not requiring geriatrics training formedical students even though older adults will comprise a significant proportion of their patients. The same criticism
  • 5. 5can be made about training of professional social workers who receive little information about the aging processalthough many of their clients will be elderly.Underlying these attitudes are myths and stereotypes about old age which are deeply entrenched in Americansociety. Even those whowould not say that they are ageist probably have some ageist attitudes based on distorted or inaccurate information.Palmore discusses the most common of these negative myths and stereotypes about aging in his book Ageism:Negative and Positive (1990, p. 18-25). A summary of his main points follows:1. Illness. Perhaps the most common prejudice against elders is that most are sick or disabled. About half ofAmericans think that poor health is a "very serious problem" for most people over 65 (Harris, 1981) and that olderpeople spend much time in bed because of illness; have many accidents in the home; have poor coordination; feeltired most of the time; develop infection easily (Tuckman & Lorge, 1958); are confined to long-stay institutions;have more acute illness than younger people; and that the majority of elders are not healthy enough to carry out theirnormal activities.FACTS: Most elders (about 78% of those 65+) are healthy enough to engage in their normal activities (NationalCenter for Health Statistics, 1981). Only 5 percent of those 65 and over are institutionalized and about 81 percent ofthe noninstitutionalized have no limitation in their activities of daily living, i.e., eating, bathing, dressing, toileting,and so on (Soldo & Manton, 1983).While more persons over 65 have chronic illnesses that limit their activity (43%) than do younger persons (10%),elders actually have fewer acute illnesses than do younger persons, have fewer injuries in the home, and feweraccidents on the highway than younger persons. Thus, the higher rate of chronic illness among elders is offset by thelower rates of acute illness, injury, and accidents. In addition there is evidence that rates of disability are decreasingamong elders (Palmore, 1986; Crimmins, Saito, & Ingegneri, 1989).2. Impotency. A related stereotype is the belief that most elders no longer engage in any sexual activity or evenhave sexual desire, and that those few who do are morally perverse or at least abnormal (Golde & Kogan, 1959;Cameron, 1970). Even physicians, who should know better, often assume that sexuality is unimportant in late life(Butler, 1975).FACTS: The majority of persons past 65 continue to have both interest in and capacity for sexual relations. Mastersand Johnson (1966) found that the capacity for satisfying sexual relations usually continues into the seventies andeighties for healthy couples. The Duke Longitudinal Studies (Palmore, 1981) found that sex continues to play animportant role in the lives of the majority of men and women through the seventh decade of life. A large-scalesurvey (Starr & Weiner, 1981) found that most elders said that sex after 60 was as satisfying or more satisfying thanwhen younger.3. Ugliness. Another stereotype is that old people are ugly. Beauty is associated with youth, and many people,especially women, fear the loss of their beauty as they age. The following terms reflect this stereotype of ugliness:crone, fossil, goat, hag, witch, withered, wizened, wrinkled.FACTS: While our culture tends to associate old age with ugliness, and youth with beauty, some other cultures tendto admire the characteristics of old age. For example in Japan, silver hair and wrinkles are often admired as signs ofwisdom, maturity, and long years of service (Palmore, 1985).Thus, there is nothing inherently ugly or repelling about the characteristics of old age. Ugliness is a subjective valuejudgment, or, in other words, "ugliness is in the eye of the beholder." These value judgments usually conform tocultural standards of beauty and ugliness.4. Mental Decline. Another common stereotype is that mental abilities begin to decline from middle age onward,especially the abilities to learn and remember, and that cognitive impairment (i.e.g, memory less, disorientation, orconfusion) is an inevitable part of the aging process (Palmore, 1988).
  • 6. 6FACTS: Most elders retain their normal mental abilities, including the ability to learn and remember. It is true thatreaction time tends to slow down in old age and it may take somewhat longer to learn something. However, much ofthe difference between older and younger persons can be explained by variables other than age including illness,motivation, learning style, lack of practice, or amount of education. When these other variables are taken intoaccount, chronological age does not provide a significant amount of influence on learning ability (Poon, 1987).Most studies of short-term memory agree that there is little or no decline in everyday short-term memory amongnormal elders (Kausler, 1987). As for long-term memory, various community surveys have found that less than 20percent of elders cannot remember such things as the past President of the United States; their correct age, birth date,telephone number, mothers maiden name, or address; or the meaning of ordinary words (Botwinick, 1967; Pfeiffer,1975). Thus, it is clear that while there may be some increase in long-term memory problems, the majority do nothave serious memory defects. In summary, significant learning and memory problems are due to illness, not to ageper se.5. Mental Illness. A similar stereotype is that mental illness is common, inevitable, and untreatable among mostaged. Both elders themselves and many health professionals think that most mental illness in old age is untreatable,which partially explains why few mental health professionals choose to specialize in geriatric mental health and alsowhy elders use mental health facilities at one-half the rate of the general population (Lebowitz, 1987).FACTS: Mental illness is neither common, inevitable, nor untreatable in the elderly population. Only about 2percent of persons 65 and over are institutionalized with a primary diagnosis of psychiatric illness (George, 1984).All community studies of psychopathology among elders agree that less than 10 percent have significant or severemental illness, and another 10 to 32 percent have mild to moderate mental impairment; but that the majority arewithout impairment (Balzer, 1980). In fact, according to the most comprehensive and careful community surveys,the incidence of mental illness among the elderly is less than that of younger persons (Myers, Weissman, Tischler,Hozer, & Leaf, 1984).6. Uselessness. Because of the beliefs that the majority of old people are disabled by physical or mental illness,many people conclude that the elderly are unable to continue working and that those few who do continue to workare unproductive. This belief is the main basis for compulsory retirement policies and discrimination in hiring,retraining, and promotion.FACTS: The majority of older workers can work as effectively as younger workers. Studies of employed olderpeopleunder actual working conditions generally show that they perform as well as, if not better than, younger workers onmost measures (Krauss, 1987; Riley & Foner, 1968). Consistency of output tends to increase with age, and olderworkers have less job turnover, fewer accidents, and less absenteeism than younger workers (Riley & Foner, 1968).7. Isolation From a third to half of respondents to Palmores Facts on Aging Quiz think "The majority of old peopleare socially isolated and lonely" and "The majority of old people live alone" (Palmore, 1988). Two-thirds of personsunder 65 think that loneliness is a "very serious problem" for most people over 65 (Harris, 1981).FACTS: The majority of elders are not socially isolated. About two-thirds live with their spouse or family (U.S.Senate Special Committee on Aging, 1988). Only about 4 percent of elders are extremely isolated, and most of thesehave had lifelong histories of withdrawal (B. Kahana, 1987). Most elders have close relatives within easy visitingdistance, and contacts between them are relatively frequent.Most studies agree that there tends to be a decline in total social activity with age, but the total number of persons inthe social network tends to remain steady (Palmore, 1981). The types of persons in the social network tend to shiftfrom older to younger persons, and from friends and neighbors to children and other relatives.8. Poverty. Views about the economic status of elders range from those who think most elders are poor, to thosewho think the majority are rich. At present those thinking elders are poor tend to outnumber those thinking eldersare rich.FACTS: Most elders have incomes well above the federal poverty level (U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging,
  • 7. 71988). A higher proportion of elders than the total population have a net worth of over $50,000 and a slightly higherper capita family income than non-elderly headed households.However, in 1989 11.4 percent of the elderly had incomes below the poverty level and 27% were "near poor”, i.e.those with incomes up to 150% of the poverty level. It is also important to note that certain groups of elderlyexperience very high rates of poverty. These include widowedelderly women (21%), Afro-Americans elders (31%), and Afro-American elderly women living alone aged 72 orolder (64%).9. Depression. Since many believe that the typical older person is sick, impotent, senile, useless, lonely, and inpoverty, they naturally conclude that the typical older person must also be depressed.FACTS: Major depression is less prevalent among the elderly than among younger persons. However, of thevarious mental illnesses, depression is one of the most common among the elderly. Experts are not in agreementabout the extent of its occurrence, but it has been estimated that between 30% to 60% of the elderly populationexperience at least one episode of depression severe enough to interfere with daily functioning (Solomon, 1981).This, along with the fact that the rate of elderly suicide is the highest of all age groups, makes depression asignificant issue for this population.10. Political Power. Another stereotype is that the elderly are a "potent, self-interested political force" (Binstock,1983). The assumption is that the political power of the elderly hamstrings our politicians from undertaking neededreforms.FACTS: The aged do constitute a large portion of participating voters constituting about 16% of those who vote innational elections while comprising 12% of the national population (Binstock, 1983). While aging-based interestgroups can exert some influence, elders usually do not vote as a block and, consequently, have less political powerthan presumed.Although much less prevalent, positive stereotypes about aging are also held by some people. Although they areusually far less damaging than negative stereotypes, they are based on inaccurate information that reinforces adistorted view of the elderly. An example of positive age stereotyping is that wisdom, dependability, kindness andcompassion invariably accompany old age.Discussion Questions1. What are some other ways in which ageist stereotypes are perpetuated?2. How do stereotypes develop? What purpose(s) do they serve?III. What are the Consequences of Ageism?In general, the consequences of ageism are similar to those associated with all attempts to discriminate against othergroups: persons subjected to prejudice and discrimination tend to adopt the dominant groups negative image and tobehave in ways that conform to that negative image (Palmore, 1990, p. 91). Furthermore, the dominant groupsnegative image typically includes a set of behavioral expectations or prescriptions which define what a person is todo and not to do. For example, the elderly are expected to be asexual, intellectually rigid, unproductive, forgetful,happy, enjoy their retirement, and also be invisible, passive, and uncomplaining.Palmore identifies four common responses of elders to these prescriptions and expectations: acceptance, denial,avoidance, or reform (Palmore, 1990, pp. 96-102). All of these responses can have harmful effects on theindividuals. For example, an elderly person who accepts the negative image may "act old" even though this may beout of keeping with their personality or previous habits. This may mean that they stop or reduce social activities, donot seek appropriate medical treatment, or accept poverty. In essence, this internalization of a negative image canresult in the elderly person becoming prejudiced against him/herself, resulting in loss of self-esteem, self-hatred,shame, depression, and/or suicide in extreme cases.
  • 8. 8Denial of ones status as an elderly person can also have negative consequences. One example, lying about ones agemay not seem significant, but it can further erode morale. Another example is the attempt to "pass" for a member ofthe dominant, younger group by undergoing cosmetic surgery, having hair transplants, or using widely advertisedanti-aging products such as hair dyes, skin creams, cosmetics, etc. While these practices are widespread, the questfor eternal youth can become inappropriate and, ultimately, self-defeating for those who attempt to stop the naturalaging process entirely.Avoidance of ageist attitudes may also take many forms. Examples include moving into age-segregated housing,self-imposed isolation, alcoholism, drug addiction, or suicide. The reform response, Palmores last response pattern,is the antithesis of the avoidance response in that the person recognizes the discrimination and attempts to eliminateit. This attempt may be an individual one or a collective one through membership in an advocacy group such as thepowerful American Association of Retired Persons.Ultimately, stereotypes are dehumanizing and promote one-dimensional thinking about others. Elders are not seen ashuman beings but as objects who, therefore, can be more easily denied opportunities and rights. For example, eldersare frequently misdiagnosed or denied medical treatment because they are seen as "old" and, therefore, incurable.Elders are also frequently denied employment or promotion opportunities because they are "old" and lessproductive. Such discrimination is also evident on the social policy level where the elderly are blamed for havingmedical problems and consuming public resources rather than seeing them as having human needs requiringappropriate social responses. Seeing people as objects also increases the likelihood that they may be subjected toabuse and other cruel treatment.A final consequence of ageism is that by devaluing this segment of the population, a vital human resource is lost.This is contrary to many American values which entail respect for human worth and dignity. Cumulatively, theelderly represent a vast amount of experience, skill, and knowledge which this country needs to remain strong andtrue to its ideals.Discussion Questions1. What person/groups benefit from discriminating against older adults?2. What are some positive consequences of "positive ageism?"IV. How Can Ageism be Counteracted?Rodeheaver (1990) suggests that in order to counteract ageism, changes must be made in the systems whichperpetuate it. Some of these systems mentioned earlier are the media, popular culture, and institutions such asbusiness, government, and human service systems. Underlying all of these systems are ageist attitudes held byindividuals who participate in these systems. Therefore, changing individual ageist attitudes is a fundamentalapproach to reducing ageism.A first step in this process is identifying personal attitudes which are ageist in nature. This can be difficult sincemost people will deny that they are prejudiced. However, until a person is aware of this or her own attitudes, littleprogress can be made. Many "aging quizzes" and exercises are available to identify ageist attitudes and theinaccurate information which underlies them. Each person must seek out accurate information and be willing toinform others about the real facts of aging (see Appendix).Another approach which can modify ageist attitudes is personal contact with older adults. This is often an effectiveway to prevent or reduce the development of ageism, especially among young children. Many innovativeintergenerational programs have been created which not only benefit children in this way, but also benefit the olderadults. During these programs, positive aspects of aging can be emphasized so that the children will have a balancedpicture of the older adults - and of themselves as they grow older. A good example of an intergenerational programis the recording of older adults oral history by students.More formal instruction and education about aging is also needed in professional schools whose graduates will
  • 9. 9inevitably serve the elderly. This is also true for schools of journalism whose graduates will have significant powerin shaping public perception and opinion. In addition, continuing education and in-service training programs in allfields should also include the aging process and related issues.Social action and reform is another approach to counteracting ageism. This approach is particularly effective whendirected at institutions. Examples of efforts in this area include groups like the Gray Panthers which have watchdogcommittees to monitor and respond to negative media images of older adults. The Gray Panthers has been successfulin other efforts to combat ageism since it stresses intergenerational membership. Civic groups and churches can alsobe effective advocates along with other institutions in the community.Discussion Questions1. What are other ways in which ageism can be counteracted?2. You have been working with a colleague in regard to a mutual elderly client who seems somewhatconfused and disoriented. Your colleague states that she intends to recommend to the mental health clinicteam that the client be denied services because the client is "old and senile" and therefore cant benefit fromclinic services. Role play how you would respond to your colleagues apparent ageism toward the client.V. AppendicesA. Exploring Attitudes About Age and AgingB. "Act Your Age!" An exercise to identify attitudes about age norms.D. What is your Aging I.Q.?E. BibliographyAppendix AExploring Attitudes about Age and Aging1. When is a person "old"?2. When will you be "old"?3. How should you refer to a person who is "old"? How will you want to be referred to when you are "old"?4. List some common stereotypes about "old" people.5. What special entitlements, if any, should an "old" person receive just because of their age?6. What are some changes we will all experience as we become "old"?7. What is the worst and best part of growing older?8. Define "aging well." List some factors which contribute to "aging well."9. Define "aging poorly." List some factors which contribute to "aging poorly."Appendix B
  • 10. 10Act your Age!An exercise to identify attitudes about age norms.We all have opinions about what behaviors are appropriate at certain ages. These are called "age norms". For each ofthe items listed below, assign an age or age range for which the behavior seems most appropriate.Discuss your answers considering the following questions:1. What factors influenced your answers?2. For which behaviors was there the most agreement about ages/age ranges? the least agreement?3. How did gender influence your answers?Appropriate Other Factors Age/Age Range to Consider1. Wearing a short skirt and high heels2. Living alone3. Getting married4. Raising children5. Being considered sexy6. Drinking alcohol7. Driving a sports car8. Having others make decisions for you9. Displaying affection in public10. Running a marathon11. Running for U.S. president12. Retiring13. Becoming pregnant14. Enrolling in a 4 yr. college15. Receiving a heart transplantAppendix CWhat is your Aging I.Q.?NOTE: The terms "old", "elderly", and "aged" refer to persons 65 years and older.Questions and answers compiled from a variety of sources including AgeWave: The Challenges and Opportunitiesof Our Aging America by Ken Dychtwald and Joe Flower; Why Survive? Being Old in America by Robert Butler;"Facts on Aging Quizz" by Erdman B. Palmore; and "What is your Aging IQ?" published by the National Institute
  • 11. 11on Aging.True or False?____1. Most people will become "senile" sooner or later if they live long enough.____2. Intelligence declines with age.____3. Most elderly have little interest in or capacity for sexual relations.____4. American families, by and large, have abandoned their elderly members.____5. At least 25% of all elderly live in nursing homes.____6. Aged drivers have more accidents than younger drivers.____7. Depression is one of the most common problems of the elderly population.____8. Only children need to be concerned about consuming enough calcium.____9. More men than women survive to old age.____10. Older people tend to become more religious with age.____11. The majority of the aged are socially isolated and lonely.____12. The life expectancy for Afro-Americans is about the same as for whites.____13. The life expectancy of women is four years higher than that of men.____14. Personality changes with age, just like hair color and skin texture.____15. All five senses decline with age.____16. The elderly have the highest poverty rate of all adult groups.____17. Older adults represent the group at most risk for suicide.____18. Older adults have more acute, short term illnesses than younger persons.____19. The elderly naturally withdraw from participation in community life in advanced old age.____20. Hearing loss is the third most common chronic condition for the elderly.Answers to "What is your Aging I.Q."1. FALSE: Even among those who live to be 80 or older, only 20-25% develop Alzheimers disease or some otherincurable form of brain disease. Among the overall elderly population, it is estimated that less than 10% aredisoriented or demented; ofthese, some have conditions which reversible through treatment. In either case, dementia or memory loss is not anormal part of aging, but typically indicates some organic condition. Further, the word "senility" is a meaninglessterm which should be discarded in favor of specific description of the cognitive impairment.2. FALSE: Intelligence per se does not decline with age. Most people maintain their intellect or improve as theygrow older. While studies have shown that the elderly typically take somewhat longer to learn something new andhave somewhat slower reaction times than younger people, this does not impair their ability to reason and function
  • 12. 12well.3. FALSE: The majority of older adults continue to have both the interest and capacity for satisfying sexualrelations well into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s.4. FALSE: The American family is still the number one caretaker of older Americans. Most older persons live closeto their children with their spouses; 8 out of 10 older men and 6 out of 10 older women live in family settings.5. FALSE: Only 5% of persons over 65 are living in nursing homes at any given time. Even among those 75+, only10% are residents in nursing homes.6. FALSE: Drivers over the age of 65 have fewer accidents per person than drivers under age 65.7. FALSE: Depression is one of the most serious mental health problems among older adults. As many as 10% ofadults of all ages experience serious depression, but the occurrence is even more frequent among the elderly. Anestimated 30-60% experience a episode of depression severe enough to impair their ability to function. Despite thehigh prevalence rates, few elderly are seen in mental health settings when compared with the young. This is partlyattributable to the fact that depression in the elderly often goes undetected or is misdiagnosed as dementia.8. FALSE: Older people require fewer calories, but adequate intake of calcium for strong bones is important as weage. This is particularly true for women whose risk of osteoporosis increases after menopause; men also developosteoporosis, but in fewer numbers than women.9. FALSE: Women tend to outlive men by an average of 8 years. Thereare 150 women for every 100 men over age 65 and nearly 250 women for every 100 men over age 85.10. FALSE: Older people do not tend to become more religious as they age. While it is true that the presentgeneration of older persons tend to be more religious than younger generations, this appears to be a generationaldifference rather than a characteristic of aging. In other words, the present older generation has been more religiousall of their lives rather than becoming more so in older age.11. FALSE: The majority of the elderly are not socially isolated and lonely. According to one study, about two-thirds of the aged reported that they are never or hardly ever lonely or identify loneliness as a serious problem. Mostelderly have close relatives within easy visiting distance and have frequent contact. They also reported fairly highrates of socializing with friends and participation in church activities and/or voluntary organizations. This level ofactivity does tend to decline somewhat with advanced age and/or disability, but contact with relatives remainedfairly constant or increased.12. TRUE and FALSE: In general, the life expectancy for whites is 72 for men and 79 for women; the lifeexpectancy for Afro-Americans is 65 for men and 73 for women. However, the average life expectancy for Afro-Americans begins to exceed that for whites after age 80 for reasons that are not well understood.13. FALSE: The overall life expectancy for women of all races (78 years) exceeds that for men (71.5 years) byseven years.14. FALSE: Personality doesnt change with age. Therefore, all old people cannot be described as rigid oropinionated, only those who were always rigid or opinionated.15. TRUE: All five senses do tend to decline with age, although the extent of these changes varies greatly amongindividuals.16. TRUE: In 1989, the elderly as a group had a poverty rate of approximately 11.4% as compared with those age18 to 64 whose poverty rate was 10.2%. However, the near poverty rates are more instructive ("near poverty" means125% of the poverty level): in 1990, 19% of the elderly were poor/near poor as compared to 14.4% of the 18-64group. Poverty rates for children exceed those for both the elderly and other adults at 26% poor/near poor in 1990.
  • 13. 13Poor/near poor rates for certain elderly subgroups far exceed the average 19% poor/near poor figure for all elderly:elderlyminorities are two and three times more likely as non-minority elders to be poor/near poor; 23.4% of elderly womenwere poor/near poor in 1990; 25% of the elderly aged 75+ were poor/near poor in 1990.17. TRUE: Suicide is a more frequent cause of death among the elderly than among any other age group, primarilydue to the high suicide rate among older men, especially older white men age 85+. People age 65 and older have a50% higher suicide rate than the rest of the population.18. FALSE: Older persons have less acute illnesses than younger persons. Older adults have more chronic illnessesthan younger age groups however.19. FALSE: Although the "disengagement" theory was once accepted to explain the relative decrease in activity forsome older adults, it has generally been discredited as a valid explanation. More current research has explored thevast diversity among the elderly and many new theories have been developed which better explain the variety ofaging observed in this heterogeneous population.20. TRUE: After arthritis and heart disease, hearing loss is the most common chronic disorder reported in theelderly population.Appendix DBibliographyAchenbaum, W. A. (1978). Old age in the new land. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UniversityPress.Allen, J. A., & Burwell, N. Y. (1980). Ageism and racism: Two issues in social work educationand practice. Journal of Education for Social Work, 16 (2), 71-77.Ansello, E. F. (1977). "Age and ageism in childrens first literature." Educational Gerontology, 2,255-274.Arluke, A. & Levin, J. (1984, August-September). "Another stereotype: Old age as secondchildhood." Aging, 7-11.Barbato, C. A. & Feezel, J. D. (1987). "The language of aging in different age groups." TheGerontologist, 27, 527-531.Boone, D. R. (1985). "Ageism: A negative view of the aged." ASHA, 27, 51-53.Brubaker, T. H. & Powers, E. A. (1976). "The stereotype of "old"a review and alternativeapproach." Journal of Gerontology, 31, 441-447.Butler, R. N. (1969). "Age-ism: Another form of bigotry." The Gerontologist, 9, 243-246.Butler, R. N. (1975a). "Psychiatry and the elderly: An overview." American Journal ofPsychiatry, 132, 893-900.Butler, R. N. (1975b).Why survive? Being old in America. New York: Harper & Row.
  • 14. 14Butler, R. N. (1980). "Ageism: A foreword." Journal of Social Issues, 365, 8-11.Butler, R. N. & Lewis, M. I. (1982). Aging and mental health (3rd ed.). St. Louis, MO: C. V.Mosby.Cheren, C. E. (Ed.) (1984, August-September). "Ageism in America." Aging, 346.Cole, T. R. (1992). The journey of life: A cultural history of aging in America. CambridgeUniversity Press.Comfort, A. (1976b). "Age prejudice in America." Social Policy, 7(3), 3-8.Datan, N. (1981). "The lost cause: The aging woman in American feminism." In B. Justice andR. Pore (Eds.), Towards the second decade: The impact of the womens movement on Americaninstitutions (pp. 119-125). Westport, CT: Greenwood.Datan, N. (1989). "Aging women: The silent majority." Womens Studies Quarterly, 17, 12-19.Davies, L. J. (1977). "Attitudes toward old age and aging as shown by humor." TheGerontologist, 17, 220-226.Davis, R. H. (1984, August-September). "TVs boycott of old age." Aging, 12-17.Estes, C. L. (1979). The aging enterprise. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Fischer, D. H. (1978). Growing old in America. New York: Oxford University Press.Golden, H. M. (1976). "Black ageism." Social Policy, 7(3), 40-42.Goodstein, R. K. 91985). "Common clinical problems in the elderly: Camouflaged by ageismand atypical presentation." Psychiatric Annals, 15, 299-311.Greene, R. (1983). "Ageism, death anxiety, and the case worker." Journal of Social ServiceResearch, 7(1), 55-69.Gruman, G. J. (1978). "Cultural origins of present-day "ageism": The modernization of the lifecycle." In S. F. Spicker, K. M. Woodward, & D. D. Van Tassel (Eds.), Aging and the elderly:Humanistic perspectives in gerontology (pp. 359-387).Herrick, J. W. (1983). "Interbehavioral perspectives on aging." International Journal of Agingand Human Development, 16, 95-124.Hess, B. B. (1974). "Stereotypes of the aged." Journal of Communication, 24, 76-85.Hesse, K. A., Campion, E. W. & Karamouz, N. (1984). "Additudinal stumbling blocks to
  • 15. 15geriatric rehabilitation." Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 32, 747-775.Hopkins, T. J. (1980). "A conceptual framework for understanding the three "isms"racism,ageism, sexism." Journal of Education for Social Work, 16 (2), 63-70.Jensen, G. D. & Oakley, F. B. (1982-1983). "Ageism across cultures and in perspective ofsociobiologic and psychodynamic theories." International Journal of Aging and HumanDevelopment, 15, 17-26.Kasschau, P. L. (1977). "Age and race discrimination reported by middle-aged and olderpersons." Social Forces, 55, 728-742.Kearl, M. C. 91981-1982). "An inquiry into the positive personal and social effects of old agestereotyping among the elderly." International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 14,277-290.Keith, P. M. (1977). "An exploratory study of sources of stereotypes of old age amongadministrators." Journal of Gerontology, 32, 463-469.Kogan, N. (1979). "Beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes about old people: A new look at some oldissues." Research on Aging, 1, 11-36.Levenson, A. J. (1981). "Ageism: A major deterrent to the introduction of curricula in aging."Gerontology and Geriatric Education, 1, 161-162.Lillard, J. (1982). "A double edged sword: Ageism and sexism." Journal of GerontologicalNursing, 11, 630-634.Minkler, M. & Stone, R. (1985). "The feminization of poverty and older women." TheGerontologist, 25, 351-357.Nuessel, F. H. (1982). "The language of ageism." The Gerontologist, 22, 273-276.Palmore, E. (1990). Ageism: Negative and positive. New York: Springer.Payne, B. & Whittington, F. (1976). "Older women: An examination of popular stereotypes andresearch evidence." Social Problems, 23, 488-504.Peacock, E. W. & Talley, W. M. (1984). "Intergenerational contact: A way to counteractageism." Educational Gerontology, 10, 13-24.Peterson, D. A. (1985). "Toward a definition of educational gerontology." In R. H. Sherron & D.B. Lumsden (Eds.), Introduction to educational gerontology (2nd ed.; pp. 1-29). Washington,DC: Hemisphere.Phillipson, C. (1982). Capitalism and the construction of old age. London: Macmillan Press.
  • 16. 16Ray, D., Raciti, M. A., & Ford, C. V. (1985). "Ageism in psychiatrists: Associations with gender,certification, and theoretical orientation." The Gerontologist, 25, 496-500.Richman, J. (1977). "The foolishness and wisdom of age: Attitudes toward the elderly asreflected in jokes." The Gerontologist, 17, 210-219.Rodeheaver, D. (1987b). "When old age became a social problem, women were left behind." TheGerontologist, 27, 741-746.*For a more complete bibliography, see Aging Curriculum Content for Education in the Social-Behavioral Sciences: Module VII: Ageism by Dean Rodeheaver, Springer Publishing Company,1990.Rodin, J. & Langer, E. (1980). "Aging labels: The decline of control and the fall of self-esteem."Journal of Social Issues, 36(2), 12-29.Rosen, B. & Jerdee, T. H. (1976). "The influence of age stereotypes on managerial decisions."Journal of Applied Psychology, 61, 428-432.Schonfield, D. (1982). "Who is stereotyping who and why?" The Gerontologist, 22, 267-272.Seedeldt, C., Jantz, R. K., Galper, A., & Serock, K. (1977). "Childrens attitudes toward theelderly: Educational implications." Educational Gerontology, 2, 301-310.Seltzer, M. M. (1977). "Differential impact of various experiences on breaking down agestereotypes." Educational Gerontology, 2, 183-189.Solomon, K. (1981). "The depressed patient: Social antecedents of psychopathologic changes inthe elderly." Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 29, 14-17.Steuer, J. L. (1982). "Psychotherapy with older women: Ageism and sexism in traditionalpractice." Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 19, 429-436.Tibbitts, C. (1979). "Can we invalidate negative stereotypes of aging?"The Gerontologist, 19,10-20.Wilhite, M. J. & Johnson, D. M. (1976). "Changes in nursing students stereotypic attitudestoward old people." Nursing Research, 25, 430-432.Zinberg, N. E. (1976). "Normal psychology of the aging process, revisited (I): Social learningand self-image in aging." Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 9, 131-150.
  • 17. 17Appendix EAudio Visual ResourcesSlides / audiocassette:Attitudes About AgingRunning time: 15 minutes / slide/tapeUniversity Film and VideoContinuing Education and ExtensionUniversity of Minnesota1313 Fifth Street S.E., Suite 108Minneapolis, MN 55414(800) 847-8251An overview of available research literature that focuses on the views of a variety of groupstoward aging. An exploration of the effect these groups have on general attitudes and beliefsabout aging is included, as well as the way in which attitudes influence behaviors exhibitedtoward elders. The importance of professionals developing an awareness of age-related attitudesis stressed. Recommended for professionals as a useful aid in training others to be moreperceptive.Videos:Ageism: Golden Years or LeadenRunning time:Lutheran Center on Aging911 Stewart StreetSeattle WA 98101(206) 467-6532Exposes ageism as a social phenomenon that is finally emerging into the public spotlight. Offersvignettes and a book of discussion questions in attempt to help people explore their own issuesabout aging.Growing Old in a New Age: Part One-Myths and Realities of AgingThe Annenberg Corporation for Public Broadcasting CollectionAttn.: Diane DriverCenter on AgingUniversity of California535 University Hall #7360Berkeley, CA 94720-7360(510) 643-6427Examines ageism and debunks common myths of aging (i.e. most people are ill; there is no sexafter 60; the right product can halt the aging process; aging brings memory loss; older familymembers are ignored).
  • 18. 18The Later YearsInsight MediaRunning time: 30 minutes / videoAttn.: Andrew ScharlachSchool of Social Welfare329 HavilandUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeley, CA 94720(510) 642-0126This program explores changing societal attitudes towards the elderly. It distinguishes betweenprimary and secondary factors, relating each to attitude, behavior and lifestyle. The programcompares the advantages and disadvantages of various lifestyles of the elderly (i.e. living alone,living with children, living in a nursing home), as well as dating and sexual activity among olderadults, and how men and women experience aging differently.
  • 19. 19LECTURE NOTESPoints to consider:Definition of Ageism—systematic stereotyping and discrimination against peoplebecause they are old.o StereotypeHighly exaggerated pictureNo basis in fact but some kernel of truthUsually negative (disregard or little regard for any positive characteristics)Fixed, non-changing viewUniversals, no room for individual variationso Examples of ageing stereotypesPeople become “childlike” when they are old.Intelligence declines with age.Religion becomes more important with age.Old people are cranky and stubborn.Old people become senile sooner or laterOld people have nothing to look forward to.And so on.o Commonalities between all “isms” i.e., racism, sexism, and so onCultural perpetuation of ageismo Media influencesAdvertisementsStress on youtho Power of languageDemeaning, insulting commentsTreating older adults as children
  • 20. 20Consequences of ageismo Disempowerment of older peopleo Discrimination of older peopleo Perpetuates fears of aging and negative self imageso Dehumanizes older peopleCombating ageismo Identifying personal attitudesHonest addressing of attitudes and stereotypesWillingness to let go of stereotypesContact with older persons and open attitudesEducational endeavors to learn more about older adultso Addressing social/cultural stereotypesSocial action to decrease media and other negative images of olderpersonsSocial action to increase awareness of strengths of agingAwareness of other cultures and their views on agingEliminating ageism from one’s own practice and good modeling behaviorwith others.
  • 21. 21CLASSROOM EXERCISES1) In overview’s appendices, do one of the activities listed, we recommend either “Attitudesabout Age and Aging” or “Act your Age!” (these appendices are at the end of the briefoverview).2) Have students keep a log for one week. In this log, have them record each time they readan article in which ageism is present, or see a TV show, movie, commercial or videowhere ageism is present, or hear others talk about an older person in a ageist manner.Discuss the logs in class and review the totals in each area.BACKGROUND READINGS(see citation list at end of overview)andBerger, R. & Kelly, J. (2001). What are Older Gay Men Like? An Impossible Question? Journalof Gay and Lesbian Social Services, 13 (4), 55-64.Beville: Aging views are getting old (1999, May 26)..McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, p.23.Browne, C. (1995). Empowerment in social work practice with older women. Social Work, 40(3), 358-364.Kelchner, E. (1999). Ageism’s impact and effect on society: Not just a concern for the old.Journal of Gerontological Social Work, 32 (4), 85-100.Morgan, M. (2001). The power of old. The Other Side, 37 (2), 51+ Retrieved July 9, 2002 fromLEXIS-NEXIS on-line database (Academic Universe) on the World Wide Web:
  • 22. 22CITATIONS(see above and end of overview)