Sociology Index


Ageism is the assumption that a person's age should determine their social status and their roles in society. Ageism usually refers to stereotyping and devaluation of seniors.

The NHS has been accused of ageism frequently and from many fronts. Previous studies have shown that the number of critical care beds in the UK is inadequate to meet the needs of the population.

The Ageism Survey - First Findings

Purpose: To develop an instrument that can be used to answer three questions:

What is the prevalence of ageism in various societies?

Which types of ageism are more prevalent?

Which subgroups of older people report more ageism?

Methods: A survey instrument was developed listing 20 types of ageism. This instrument was tested on a convenience sample of 84 persons older than age 60.

Results: The instrument appears to have satisfactory reliability and validity. The survey found that the experience of ageism was widespread and frequent among these respondents. The majority reported several incidents of ageism and over half of the incidents were reported to have occurred "more than once." The most frequent types were persons showing disrespect for older people, followed by persons showing assumptions about ailments or frailty caused by age. Implications: Researchers now have a reliable and valid instrument for measuring the prevalence of ageism in various societies and of various types of ageism experienced by various groups of older persons. This may aid in reducing the prevalence of ageism in our society. - Erdman Palmore, PhD, Duke Center for the Study of Aging, Decision Editor: Laurence G. Branch, PhD

Ageism or Healthism? - Perceptions Based on Age and Health Status 
William L. Gekoski, PhD, V. Jane Knox, PhD, Queen's University 
Despite what appears to be ageist behavior in our society, there is little research evidence indicating that the elderly are perceived negatively. The reason for this discrepancy may be that it is not age itself but characteristics that covary with age (such as poor health) that are seen negatively.

Dispelling Ageism: The Cross-Cutting Intervention - ROBERT N. BUTLER 
This article challenges all of us—policymakers, practitioners, scientists, members of the medical profession, the public at large—to intervene in the most basic of all problems of old age: "ageism," a term the coinage of which I lay claim to. In concluding this special issue of The Annals on interventions designed to enhance the quality of aging, I begin with a history of ageism as a disease. I specify many of its manifestations, which still linger today despite years of effort to dispel the false stereotypes and myths about older people. Concerning the treatment of ageism as a disease, I find that knowledge is the most basic intervention, serving as antidote to numerous erroneous but widely held beliefs.

Attitudes toward the Aged - What We Know and Need to Know - Erdman B. Palmore, Duke Univ. 
This research should be based on probability samples and use scales tested for reliability and validity. In order to reduce ageism and thus improve the quality of life among our elders, controlled experiments are needed to determine which methods of reducing ageism are most effective and efficient.

Protected or Neglected - An Examination of Negative Versus Compassionate Ageism in Public Conservatorship, Sandra L. Reynolds, University of South Florida 
This study examines the assumptions held in the gerontological literature that older adults suffer negative ageism under conservatorship in comparison with younger adults. For the purposes of this study, negative ageism is defined in four ways-with demographic and health factors controlled: Older adults would be more likely (1) to be served under powers to place the conservatee in locked facilities, (2) to be served under powers that authorize treatment with psychotropic medication, (3) to be placed in locked facilities, and (4) to receive psychotropic medications. Findings in this study do not reveal any evidence of negative ageism; however, findings do support evidence of compassionate ageism.

Ageism and Death: Effects of Mortality Salience and Perceived Similarity to Elders on Reactions to Elderly People - Andy Martens, Jeff Greenberg, Mark J. Landau, University of Arizona, Jeff Schimel, University of Alberta 
The present research investigated the hypotheses that elderly people can be reminders of our mortality and that concerns about our own mortality can therefore instigate ageism. Distancing from, and derogation of, elderly people after mortality salience occurred only in participants who, weeks before the study, rated their personalities as relatively similar to the average elderly person’s. Discussion addresses distinguishing ageism from other forms of prejudice, as well as possibilities for reducing ageism.