Chapter 7: Ageism (p.165-197)
Ageism: prejudice, stereotypes, and discrimination directed at someone because of their age.
- Aging is different from examining racism or sexism because the members of an outgroup (the
young) will eventually become part of an ingroup (the elderly).
- Brewer found that people have a generally negative view of the superordinate category “older
people,” but they have several subcategories of older people (with both negative and positive
- Overall, people have a more negative attitude toward older people than toward younger.
AGE STEREOTYPES: CONTENT AND USE
Benign ageism: subtle type of prejudice that arises out of one’s conscious and unconscious fears and
anxiety of growing old.
Malignant ageism: a more negative stereotyping process in which older people are regarded as
- Benign ageism is more common because it is more subtle.
- Ageism is one of the most unnoticed and socially condoned forms of prejudice.
POSITIVE ATTITUDES AND POSITIVE STEREOTYPES
- Positive ageism assumes that older people are in need of special care, treatment, or economic
EFFECTS OF PSEUDOPOSITIVE ATTITUDES
Two negative types of communication:
Over-accommodation: a type of behaviour by younger individuals toward older persons, in which the
younger person is overly polite and speaks louder and in simpler sentences.
- Downplays serious thoughts, concerns, and feelings of older people
Baby talk: a simplified speech register with exaggerated intonation – a more condescending form of
over-accommodation. - Primary baby talk: used for babies.
- Secondary baby talk: used for pets, inanimate objects, and adults.
- Baby talk is universal among cultures.
Infantilization: the belief that older persons are like children, because of their perceived inferior mental
and physical ability.
- Being offered help by others can undercut one’s self-esteem and sense of competence and
- Patronizing behaviour and even well-intended offers of assistance can have negative
consequences for the self-esteem of the older individual.
Effects of Pseudopositive Attitudes on Older People
- According to Arluke and Levin, infantilization creates a self-fulfilling prophecy that older people
come to accept and believe they are no longer independent, contributing adults.
By accepting infantilization, older people face three negative consequences:
1. Social status diminished through decrease in responsibility and increased dependency.
2. Justification of medication, institutionalization, or declarations of legal incompetency.
3. Political power is reduced with their ability and impact limited on society.
- Negative self-perception about aging can have a strong connection to one’s overall health and
longevity – found positive self-perceptions gave 7.5 years more life
- However, the self-esteem of older independent persons almost double the scores found in high
- This is because older individuals tend to a) have a more stable sense of self, b) reduction in social
roles reduces conflict between various aspects of the self, and c) maintaining self, roles, and
abilities rather than establishing them.
AGEISM IN THE HELPING PROFESSIONS
- Many physicians have a negative view of their older patients.
- Older persons are less likely than younger patients to be referred for psychiatric assessments.
How age bias can be changed by profession