Sociology Index

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AGEISM

Ageism is the assumption that a person's age should determine their social status and their roles in society. Ageism is stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. This may be casual or systematic. Robert Neil Butler used the term ageism to describe discrimination against seniors, and patterned on sexism and racism.

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 elderly people.

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. Ageism usually refers to stereotype and devaluation of seniors. The National Health Service has been accused of ageism frequently. 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.

The Ageism Survey - Findings

What is the prevalence of ageism in various societies?

Which types of ageism are more prevalent?

Which subgroups of older people report more ageism? 

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. 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. Discussion addresses distinguishing ageism from other forms of prejudice, as well as possibilities for reducing ageism.