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Stereotypes About Age And Older Persons

Ageism appears in many forms. A few examples illustrate how the behavior of an older person is described in an ageist manner, where the same behavior by a younger person is explained without stereotypes. When older people forget someone's name, they are viewed as senile. When a younger person fails to recall a name, we usually say he or she has a faulty memory. When an older person complains about life or a particular incident, they are called cranky and difficult, while a younger person may just be seen as being critical. If an older person has trouble hearing, she is dismissed as "getting old," rather than having difficulty with her hearing. Children also can hold negative stereotypes about older people. Some young children equate aging with being sick, unfulfilled, unhappy, or dying.

Older people also face stereotypes on the job. The most common stereotypes about older workers are that older workers are less productive, more expensive, less adaptable, and more rigid than younger workers.

As with stereotypes about other groups, the facts refute the stereotypes. While studies show that interest, motivation, and skill do not decline with age, some employers continue to perceive older workers as resistant to change, slow to learn new skills, and uncomfortable with new technologies. Studies consistently demonstrate that there is no correlation between age and job performance, despite the common stereotype that productivity declines with age. Indeed, research reveals that some intellectual functions may even improve with age. While the cost of certain employee benefits such as health and life insurance may increase with age, the data is lacking to support the stereotype that older workers cost more to employ than younger workers. Differences in salary costs are typically due to tenure rather than age.

Additional topics

Medicine EncyclopediaAging Healthy - Part 1Ageism - Stereotypes About Age And Older Persons, Why Ageism Exists In American Culture, The Role Of The Media In Supporting Ageism