Ageism, also called age discrimination is stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups because of their age. It is a set of beliefs, attitudes, norms, and values used to justify age based prejudice and discrimination. This may be casual or systematic.[1][2][3] The term was coined in 1969 by US gerontologist Robert N. Butler to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.[4] Butler defined ageism as a combination of three connected elements. Among them were prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age, and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about older people[5] The term has also been used to describe prejudice and discrimination against adolescents and children.[6]

[edit] Forms and manifestations of ageism

There are several forms of ageism which fall under two general categories: prejudicial ageism, or the negative stereotyping of people on the basis of age, and discriminatory ageism, or denying people opportunities on the basis of age.[3]

[edit] Implicit ageism

Implicit ageism is the term used to refer to the implicit or unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors one has about older or younger people. These may be a mixture of positive and negative thoughts and feelings, but gerontologist Becca Levy reports that they –tend to be mostly negative.– [13]

One way that implicit or explicit ageism may manifest is through the use of patronizing language with older or younger people. The term "patronizing language" specifically describes two negative methods of communication: overaccommodation, which consists of a person being excessively courteous and speaking simple and short sentences very loudly and slowly to an older or younger person, with an exaggerated tone and high pitch; and baby talk, which involves practically the same uncomplicated speech with an exaggerated pitch and tone that one uses when talking to a baby, differing in the content of the speech. These tend to downplay the serious and thoughtful contributions of older or younger persons to society, while reinforcing a negative image of them as dependent people with deficiencies in intellect, cognitive and physical performance, and other areas required for autonomous, daily functioning. People who engage in this type of speech treat older members of society as if they have regressed to an infantile state, or treat younger members of society as if they have never progressed beyond an infantile state.[14]

[edit] Ageist stereotyping

Ageist stereotyping is a tool of cognition which involves categorizing into groups and attributing characteristics to these groups. Stereotypes are necessary for processing huge volumes of information which would otherwise overload a person, and they are often based on a "grain of truth" (for example, the association between aging and ill health). However, they cause harm when the content of the stereotype is incorrect with respect to most of the group or where a stereotype is so strongly held that it overrides evidence which shows that an individual does not conform to it. Stereotypes are used to interpret the world around us. For example, age-based stereotypes prime one to draw very different conclusions when one sees an older and a younger adult with, say, back pain or a limp. One might well assume that the younger person–s condition is temporary and treatable, following an accident, while the older person–s condition is chronic and less susceptible to intervention. On average, this might be true, but plenty of older people have accidents and recover quickly. This assumption may have no consequence if one makes it in the blink of an eye as one is passing someone in the street, but if it is held by a health professional offering treatment or managers thinking about occupational health, it could inappropriately influence their actions and lead to age-related discrimination.

[edit] Ageist prejudice

Ageist prejudice is a type of emotion which is often linked to the cognitive process of stereotyping. It can involve the expression of derogatory attitudes, which may then lead to the use of discriminatory behaviour. Where older contestants were rejected in the belief that they were poor performers, this could well be the result of stereotyping. But older people were also voted for at the stage in the game where it made sense to target the best performers. This can only be explained by a subconscious emotional reaction to older people; in this case, the prejudice took the form of distaste and a desire to exclude oneself from the company of older people.

[edit] Benevolent prejudice

Stereotyping and prejudice against different groups in society does not take the same form. Age-based prejudice and stereotyping usually involves older people being pitied, marginalized, or patronized. This is described as "benevolent prejudice" because the tendency to pity is linked to seeing older people as "friendly" but "incompetent." This is similar to the prejudice most often directed against women and disabled people. Age Concern's survey revealed strong evidence of "benevolent prejudice." 48% said that over-70s are viewed as friendly (compared to 27% who said the same about under-30s). Meanwhile, only 26% believe over-70s are viewed as capable (with 41% saying the same about under-30s).[15]

[edit] Hostile prejudice

"Hostile prejudice" based on hatred, fear, or perceived threat (which often characterizes attitudes linked to race, religion, and sexual orientation) is less common with respect to the elderly, and more common with respect to youth. There are examples, including excessive rhetoric regarding intergenerational competition, and violence against vulnerable older people, which can be motivated by subconscious hostility or fear. Equality campaigners are often wary of drawing comparisons between different forms of inequality. But abuse and neglect experienced by vulnerable older people may kill more people each year than the shocking but relatively isolated cases of public violence motivated by race, religion, or sexual orientation.[citation needed]

The impact of "benevolent" and "hostile" prejudice can be equally severe but tends to be different. The warmth felt towards older people means there is often public acceptance that they are deserving of preferential treatment in certain circumstances. But the perception of incompetence means older people can be seen as "not up to the job" or "a menace on the roads," when there is no evidence to support this. Benevolent prejudice also leads to assumptions that it is "natural" for older people to have lower expectations, reduced choice and control, and less account taken of their views.

[edit] Discrimination

Age discrimination refers to the actions taken to deny or limit opportunities to people on the basis of age. These are usually actions taken as a result of one–s ageist beliefs and attitudes. Age discrimination occurs on both a personal and institutional level.[3]

On a personal level, an older person may be told that he or she is too old to engage in certain activities, while a younger person may be told that he or she is too young to engage in certain activities.

Age discrimination in hiring has been shown to exist in the United States. Joanna Lahey, economics professor at Texas A&M University, found that firms are more than 40% more likely to interview a younger job applicant than an older job applicant.[22]

In a survey for the University of Kent, England, 29% of respondents stated that they had suffered from age discrimination. This is a higher proportion than for gender or racial discrimination. Dominic Abrams, social psychology professor at the university, concluded that ageism is the most pervasive form of prejudice experienced in the UK population.[23]

[edit] Healthcare

There is considerable evidence of discrimination against the elderly in health care. This is particularly true for aspects of the physician-patient interaction, such as screening procedures, information exchanges, and treatment decisions. In the patient-physician interaction, physicians and other health care providers may hold attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that are associated with ageism against older patients. Studies have found that physicians often do not seem to show any care or concern toward treating the medical problems of older people. Then, when actually interacting with these older patients on the job, the doctors sometimes view them with disgust and describe them in negative ways, such as "depressing" or "crazy."[14] For screening procedures, elderly people are less likely than younger people to be screened for cancers and, due to the lack of this preventative measure, less likely to be diagnosed at early stages of their conditions.[26]

After being diagnosed with a disease that may be potentially curable, older people are further discriminated against. Though there may be surgeries or operations with high survival rates that might cure their condition, older patients are less likely than younger patients to receive all the necessary treatments. It has been posited that this is because doctors fear their older patients are not physically strong enough to tolerate the curative treatments and are more likely to have complications during surgery that may end in death. However, other studies have been done with patients with heart disease, and, in these cases, the older patients were still less likely to receive further tests or treatments, independent of the severity of their health problems. Thus, the approach to the treatment of older people is concentrated on managing the disease rather than preventing or curing it. This is based on the stereotype that it is the natural process of aging for the quality of health to decrease, and, therefore, there is no point in attempting to prevent the inevitable decline of old age.[14][26]

Such differential medical treatment of elderly people can have significant effects on their health outcomes.

[edit] Effects of ageism

Ageism has significant effects on the elderly. The stereotypes and infantilization of older people by patronizing language affects older people's self-esteem and behaviors. After repeatedly hearing a stereotype that older people are useless, older people may begin to feel like dependent, non-contributing members of society. They may start to perceive themselves in terms of the looking-glass self -- that is, in the same ways that others in society see them. Studies have also specifically shown that when older people hear these stereotypes about their supposed incompetence and uselessness, they perform worse on measures of competence and memory. These stereotypes then become self-fulfilling prophecies. Older people may also engage in self-stereotypes, or taking their culture's age stereotypes to which they have been exposed over the life course and directing them inward toward themselves. Then this behaviour reinforces the present stereotypes and treatment of the elderly.[13][14]

[edit] References

  1. ^ Nelson, T. (Ed.) (2002). Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice against Older People. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-64057-2. 
  2. ^ Shepard, Jon; Robert W. Greene (2003u). Sociology and You. Ohio: Glencoe McGraw-Hill. pp. A-22. ISBN 0078285763. 
  3. ^ a b c Quadagno, J. (2008). The field of social gerontology. In E. Barrosse (Ed.), Aging & the life course: An introduction to social gerontology (pp. 2-23). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  4. ^ Kramarae, C. and Spender, D. (2000) Routledge International Encyclopedia of Women: Global Women's Issues and Knowledge. Routledge. p. 29.
  5. ^ Wilkinson J and Ferraro K, Thirty Years of Ageism Research. In Nelson T (ed). Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice Against Older Persons. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2002
  6. ^ "Young and Oppressed" -
  7. ^ Lauter And Howe (1971) Conspiracy of the Young. Meridian Press.
  8. ^ De Martelaer, K., De Knop, P., Theeboom, M., and Van Heddegem, L. (2000) "The UN Convention as a Basis for Elaborating Rights of Children In Sport," Journal of Leisurability. 27(2), pp. 3-10.
  9. ^ (n.d.) Youth Liberation Z magazine.
  10. ^ Fletcher, A. (2006) Washington Youth Voice Handbook. CommonAction.
  11. ^ "Stop Discrimination"'s Glossary (European Union)
  12. ^ Branch, L., Harris, D. & Palmore, E.B. (2005) Encyclopedia of Ageism. Haworth Press. ISBN 0-7890-1890-X
  13. ^ a b c Levy, B. R. (2001). Eradication of ageism requires addressing the enemy within. The Gerontologist, 41(5), 578-579.
  14. ^ a b c d Nelson, T. D. (2005). Ageism: Prejudice against our feared future self. Journal of Social Issues, 61(2), 207-221.
  15. ^ a b c Loretto, W., Duncan, C., & White, P.J. (2000). Ageism and employment: Controversies, ambiguities, and younger people–s perceptions. Ageing & Society, 20(3), 279-302.
  16. ^ Quadagno, J. (2008). The economics of aging. In E. Barrosse (Ed.), Aging & the life course: An introduction to social gerontology (pp. 350-374). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  17. ^ Willow, C., Franklin, A. and Shaw, C. (2007). Meeting the obligations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in England. Children and young people's messages to Government. DCSF.
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  19. ^ Age Positive, Department for Work and Pensions in Sheffield and London
  20. ^ Phelps, E. S. (1972). "The statistical theory of racism and sexism". American Economic Review 62: 659–661.
  21. ^ Youth & Labor - Age Requirements, US Department of Labor
  22. ^ Lahey, J. (2005) Do Older Workers Face Discrimination? Boston College.
  23. ^ (2006) How Ageist is Britain? London: Age Concern.
  24. ^ When Words Get Old: Ageist Language Newswise, Retrieved on September 9, 2008.
  25. ^ Harris, D. (2003 July-August) Simple justice. The story behind a record-setting age discrimination settlement and what it could mean in your workplace. AARP The Magazine. Retrieved on October 25, 2008.
  26. ^ a b Robb, C., Hongbin, C., & Haley, W. E. (2002). Ageism in mental health and health care: A critical review. Journal of Clinical Geropsychology, 8(1), 1-12. [1]
  27. ^ California Fair Employment and Housing Act FindLaw.
  28. ^ Federal Protections for Older Workers 2008 KMB Legal
  29. ^ Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 FindLaw website.
  30. ^ Morelli v. Cedel (2nd Cir. 1998) 141 F3d 39, 45 FindLaw website.
  31. ^ Anti-Defamation League State Hate Crime Statutory Provisions (2005)PDF (23.8 KB) (See page 1, section "Other", note 2) Retrieved on May-21-2009
  32. ^ Everyday Fears - A Survey of Violent Hate Crimes in Europe and North AmericaPDF (1.96 MB) McClintock, Michael (See pages 84 and 122, Appendix 10, "Others", note 2) Retrieved on May-21-2009
  33. ^ Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (official text)PDF (80.6 KB)
  34. ^ (English) French Penal Code (Legifrance)
  35. ^ (French) Legifrance's Code pnal – original text
  36. ^ Canadian Criminal Code
  37. ^ (French) Belgium Law of Feb. 25 2003 against discriminationPDF (76.5 KB)
  38. ^ Roosevelt, A.E. (1935) "Facing the Problems of Youth," National Parent-Teacher Magazine 29(30). Retrieved 7/30/07.
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  40. ^ ASFAR (2006). [2] Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions Articles of Incorporation.
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  44. ^ [4] (Spanish) Envellir b – Successful Ageing – Saber Envejecer website - Know-how.
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  46. ^ Cox, J. (2006) Brosnan Bares All For Playboy
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  49. ^ McCain's Unseen Adversary: Ageism | Newsweek Voices - Michael Hirsh |
  50. ^ MinnPost - Considering McCain's age: ageism or a fair question?
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  54. ^ . 
  55. ^ a b "How Healthy Is John McCain?". Time. May 14, 2008.,8599,1779596,00.html. Retrieved April 23, 2010. 

[edit] External links

[edit] Further reading

  • Bergling, Tim (2004). Reeling in the Years: Gay Men's Perspectives on Age and Ageism. New York, NY: Southern Tier Editions, Harrington Park Press. ISBN 1560233702. OCLC 52166116. 
  • Bytheway, Bill (1995). Ageism. Buckingham; Bristol, PA: Open University Press. ISBN 0335191762. OCLC 30733778. 
  • Calasanti, Toni M. and Kathleen F. Slevin (2006). Age Matters: Realigning Feminist Thinking. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 0415952239. OCLC 65400440. 
  • Cruikshank, Margaret (2003). Learning to be Old: Gender, Culture, and Aging. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0847698483. OCLC 49566317. 
  • Eglit,, Howard C. (2004). Elders on Trial: Age and Ageism in the American Legal System. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0813027659. OCLC 56482087. 
  • Gaster, Lucy (2002). Past it at 40?: A Grassroots View of Ageism and Discrimination in Employment: A Report. Bristol, UK: The Policy Press. ISBN 1861344848. OCLC 51802692. 
  • Glover, Ian and Mohamed Branine (2001). Ageism in Work and Employment. Aldershot, UK; Burlington, VT: Ashgate. ISBN 1840141492. OCLC 45487982. 
  • Gullette, Margaret Morganroth (2004). Aged by Culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226310620. OCLC 52514302. 
  • Gullette, Margaret Morganroth (1997). Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0813917212. OCLC 35986171. 
  • Kimmel, D.C. (1988). Ageism, psychology, and public policy. American Psychologist, 43(3), 175-178.
  • Kite, M.E., & Johnson, B.T. (1988). Attitudes towards older and younger adults: A meta-analysis. Psychology and Aging, 3(3), 232-244.
  • Lagac, Martine, & al. (2010). L'gisme: Comprendre et changer le regard social sur le vieillissement. Quebec city, Quebec, Canada: PUL (Presses de l'Universit Laval. ISBN 2763787819. OCLC 632095367. 
  • Macnicol, John (2006). Age Discrimination: An Historical and Contemporary Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University. ISBN 052184777X. OCLC 61176543. 
  • Nelson, Todd D. (2002). Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice Against Older Persons. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. ISBN 0262140772. OCLC 47863229. 
  • Palmore, Erdman, Laurence Branch, and Diana Harris (editors) (2005). Encyclopedia of Ageism. Binhamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press: Haworth Reference Press. ISBN 0789018896. OCLC 55801014. 
  • Thompson, Neil (2006). Anti-Discriminatory Practice (4th edition ed.). Basingstoke, England; New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1403921601. OCLC 62302620. 

Related topics in the Connexions Subject Index

Age Discrimination  –  Ageism  –  Aging/Elderly  –  Discrimination  –  Discrimination in Employment  –  Elder Abuse  –  Older Workers  –  Prejudice  –  Retirement  –  Seniors  –  Seniors' Rights  –  Stereotyping

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