Translate this page

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ageist Treatment and Self Esteem

      Not long ago, it was reported by researchers who used a longitudinal study which began over 30 years ago, that persons in midlife who have positive attitudes toward aging live an average of seven and a half years longer than those who are negative about their aging selves.   And gender, age, socioeconomic status, loneliness and functional health were not major factors. 
    Some people are relatively complacent about the “elderly” dying at seventy or seventy-five. They appear to assume that lives beyond retirement, unlike earlier life, are all the same and boring. Considering that there appears to be an ongoing fear and prejudice about the effects of an aging population reflected in “apocalyptic demography” or “age blaming”, I thought it would be important to take a deeper look at some ageist notions about the consequences of aging.[1]
    Much of the literature about aging focuses on the assumption that it means inevitable decline.  Specifically that; “…old age, not age, renders man ugly and useless.  This is specifically expressed in the connotation of the term “elderly.”
    In my ageism research, conducted several years ago in British Columbia, out of over 800 senior citizens, 34% reported that they had been told that they were “to old” to do something.  Forty percent reported that a doctor or nurse, without investigating, assumed their ailments were caused by age.
    It’s hard to maintain a positive sense of oneself if we are exposed to ageist comments from friends, family, medical specialists and the government especially if we ourselves believe negative stereotypes.      Below is an age sensitivity questionnaire. Read it and then reflect on your level of sensitivity.  Would it help to stop and take a deep breath before we slip into anxiety about treatment by other people?

  1. Imagine you are updating your resume and you go to a resume consultant. The consultant recommends that you remove some items from your resume.  How concerned and anxious would you be?
  2. Imagine you are looking for an address and stop to ask someone directions. The person talks to you very slowly and in a high pitched tone. Would you expect that the person is talking to you like this because of your age?
  3. Imagine that you are shopping with a family member and have some questions about a particular item. How concerned would you be that the answers might be directed toward the family member?
  4. Imagine you are taking a course offered by a local college how concerned are you that you might be more likely to be evaluated as less qualified than other members in the class because of your age?
  5. Imagine you are at work trying to accomplish a difficult task. One of your co-workers sees you and asks if you are sure you can handle the task alone.  How concerned would you be?
  6. Imagine you are at an ATM machine, doing your banking. You notice that a woman behind you keeps glancing at you. How concerned or anxious would you be?
  7. Imagine that you are asked to help people sign in at a conference.  After an hour your supervisor tells you that they would rather have someone else greet people.
  8. Imagine that you have just completed a job interview over the telephone.  You are in good spirits because the interviewer seemed enthusiastic about your application. Several days later you complete a second interview in person. The interviewer informs you that they will let you know about their decision soon. How concerned or anxious would you be that you might not be hired because of your age?
  9. Imagine that you are applying for a volunteer position at your local theater. The theater prides itself on its fun and vibrant atmosphere.  How concerned would you be that you might not be chosen because of your age?

[1] Much of this material was adapted from: Ageism: Rethinking Ageing by Dr. Bill Bytheway
ii. Sonia K. Kang & Alison J. Chasteen. The Development and Validation of The Age Based Rejection Sensitivity Questionaire, The Jerontoligist, 49 (3), 303-316,

No comments:

Post a Comment