7 Common Ageist Stereotypes That Should Be Long Gone
Ageism is like any other form of prejudice and is based on some stereotypes. Ageist stereotypes create negative images of older adults, affecting our thinking pattern and how we view the elderly. It is very easy to develop stereotypes and once we do, we tend to unconsciously apply them to seniors.
Negative stereotypes can be both harmful and hurtful to older adults. It can lead to many social as well as interpersonal issues among the elderly. It results in negative self-perceptions about old age, increases stress, anxiety, weakens the immune system, and increases the risk of depression and loneliness. Belief in these stereotypes also impacts memory. Researchers found that memory performance decline was 30% more among older adults who held negative ageing stereotypes.
Here are 7 of the most common ageist stereotypes that should be long gone to improve and maintain the mental as well as physical health of the elderly:
1) Aging leads to depression and loneliness
Seniors can be an easier target for depression and loneliness, however, most of them succeed at staying socially active. Most older adults have constant support from their family and friends. Moreover, mental health issues like depression and feeling lonely have no direct relationship with the age of an individual. It could affect any age group, including young children, which is why this myth connecting it to ageing needs to be eliminated.
2) Aging makes seniors unproductive and lazy
With age, come many physical barriers that may prevent older adults from performing daily tasks but that does not conclude to being unproductive. Ageing is inevitable and all of us, at some point in our lives, will go through it. Even after retirement, seniors contribute to various volunteer/ social activities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 24% engage in volunteer work after retirement.
3) People who are 60+ are all the same
Usually, everyone over the age of 60 is ‘elderly’ and assumed to start being weak, less capable, and prone to health issues. They are also put under one homogenous group when it comes to behavior or personality. A person who is 85 can be very different from one who is 65, and a person who is 65 may be very similar to one who is 45. It is very unfair to assume someone’s ability or nature, solely based on their age.
4) Aging makes seniors unable to adapt to new situations
It is very common to assume that in their golden years, people want things to stay as they are and are not open to a changing environment. This is not true at all because older people have already been through so many life-changing situations that not only are they used to it, but also know exactly how to handle them with their years of experience.
5) Aging makes older adults more religious
It is true that seniors have a higher percentage of religious people as compared to youth. However, this too has no direct relationship with ageing. It is more of a generational result. As kids, they were more actively involved in religion which is why they continue to follow it today. They do not become more religious as they age.
6) Aging makes the elderly less creative
One of the most common stereotypes is that ageing people are less creative. Although some seniors find it difficult to focus, many others participate in various activities to stay stimulated. Some seniors get into arts and crafts while others take up learning a new language or music. Some spend their time gardening, while others curl up with a good book or a puzzle. Apart from that, a lot of older adults are creating a legacy by becoming entrepreneurs.
7) Aging makes seniors less interested in sex or intimacy
Talking about the sex life of elderly people is a bit taboo in society and has resulted in the stereotype that they are not interested in sex. This can make them feel guilty, less confident, or have mixed feelings. Research has found that sexual desire does not decrease with age. In fact, positive sexual relationships were found to be associated with physical and mental health while improving overall well-being.
There are a bunch of stereotypes along with the ones listed above, however, these are the most common ones that we need to forget about. These blanket assumptions come from what social scientists call ‘psychologist’s fallacy: judging one person’s state of mind based on your own experiences and perspectives.
The best approach we all can take regarding ageing and older adults is given by Mark Twain: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
Our mission is to create an inclusive North America where no older person is lonely. Learn more here.