CHAPTER 7: AGEISM
Butler coined the term ageism to refer to stereotyping, prejudice and
discrimination based on age.
Typically we refer to stereotyping and prejudice towards old people.
Pro-youth, anti aging.
Easy access to stereotypes about old people but very limited about young
The number of people over age 65 is going to double by the year 2030. Main
reason? The baby boomers (those born between 1947 and 1964) are getting
Why is it important?
First, ever since the 1945, everyone has focused on the baby boomers
because of the unique phenomenon they represent.
Ageism is given its own chapters because of the relative lack of attention it
has received from researchers who specialize in the study of stereotyping;
The aging process represents a unique set of factors for researchers in
prejudice and stereotyping.
DOES AGIEMS REALLY EXIST?
Mixed results. But depends a lot on the way the question is asked.
They are allowed to have a close older friend, and they get to keep their
stereotype of older people as a group.
Brewer results: people have a generally negative view of the super ordinate
category “older people” but have several subcategories of older people.
When one meets an old people, they are organized in terms of the
subcategories not the super ordinate category. When cannot place into
these subcategories, then super ordinate is default choice.
It appears that people not only think about older people in specific ways but
in many specific ways.
Examples of subcategories according to Schmidt and Boland: “despondent”
“vulnerable” “nosy neighbours” “recluse” “sage” “perfect grandparents”
OVER ALL, people have a more negative attitude toward older people than
toward younger people. People have multiple, often contradictory, views of
People have positive views about specific older people, and negative views
about general old people.
AGE STEREOTYPES: CONTENT AND USE
Nuessel points out, the fact that US society has far fewer positive terms for
older people indicates the presence of a strong individual and institutional
Butler has distinguished two types of ageism: benign and malignant
Benign ageism: is a subtle type of prejudice that arises out of the
conscious and unconscious fears and anxiety one has of growing old
Malignant ageism: is a more pernicious stereotyping process in which
older people are regarded as worthless.
One is less likely to see blatant examples of malignant ageism. Benign
ageism is much more common.
Fiske “Americans view older people as warm but incompetent.”
POSITIVE ATTITUDES AND POSITIVE STEREOTYPES:
Bell found that in the past, older people were portrayed as stubborn,
eccentric, foolish and comical characters. However old people in TV show
watched by older people was more smart, admired, powerful etc.
Palmore suggests that such positive stereotypes are indicative of what he
feels “positive ageism” which is prejudice and discrimination in favor of the
aged. Positive ageism assumes that older people are in need of special care,
treatment, or economic assistance.
Essentially any discrimination, special discounts or treatments that are only
available to old people is discrimination.
People also think that old people are believed to be kind, happy, wise,
dependable, affluent, enjoying more freedom. NO EVIDENCE.
The majority of research evidence suggests that people generally have more
negative than positive views of older people and of aging.
EFFECTS OF PSEUDOPOSITIVE ATTITUDES
Two major types of negative communication have been identified by
Over accommodation: (Kampar) younger individuals become overly
polite, speak louder and slower, exaggerate their intonation, have a higher
pitch, and talk in simple sentences with elders.
This is based on the stereotype that older people have hearing problems,
decreasing intellect, and slowed cognitive functioning.
Over accommodation also manifests itself in the downplaying of serious
thoughts, concerns, and feelings expressed by older people.
Baby talk: (Caporael) baby talk is a “simplified speech register … with high
pitch and exaggerated intonation” as the term implies, people often use it to
talk to babies (primary baby talk) and adults (secondary baby talk).
The only thing different is the content. The exaggerated tone, simplified
speech, and high pitch of the talk are virtually identical.
In addition to these features (disrespectful, condescending, and humiliating)
secondary baby talk is ageist and insulting because it connotes a
This is associated with the stereotype that all old people have deficits in
It is the individuals whose signs of physical and mental aging are more
severe who are more likely to be noticed and remembered and to confirm
stereotypes about old age.
Infantilization, one of the more pernicious stereotypes about older people,
is the belief that elders are like children because of their inferior mental and
Patronizing behavior and even well intended offers of assistance can have
negative consequences for the self-esteem of the older individual.
Effects of Pseudo positive Attitudes on Older People
According to Arluke and Levin, Infantilization creates a self fulfilling prophecy
in that older people come to accept and believe that they are no longer
independent, contributing adults (they must assume a passive, dependent
The acceptance of such a role and loss of self-esteem in an older individual
occurs gradually over the course of their life as they are continually exposed
to society’s subtle and not so subtle Infantilization of older people.
Arluke and Levin argue that by accepting such a role and the childlike
behaviour that accompanies such acceptance, older people are face with
three negative consequences.
First, the social status of older people is diminished thorough the decrease in
responsibility and increased dependency.
Butler coined the term ageism to refer to stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination based on age. Typically we refer to stereotyping and prejudice towards old people. Easy access to stereotypes about old people but very limited about young people. The number of people over age 65 is going to double by the year 2030. The baby boomers (those born between 1947 and 1964) are getting older. First, ever since the 1945, everyone has focused on the baby boomers because of the unique phenomenon they represent. Ageism is given its own chapters because of the relative lack of attention it has received from researchers who specialize in the study of stereotyping; social psychologists. The aging process represents a unique set of factors for researchers in prejudice and stereotyping. But depends a lot on the way the question is asked. They are allowed to have a close older friend, and they get to keep their stereotype of older people as a group.