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Friday, February 3, 2012

Ageism In BC Step 2 Larry and Yongjie

In step 1 I published Dr. Erdman Palmore’s Ageism Survey and I have waited some time before discussing the results found in our British Columbia study. Hopefully you examined the survey to see if the statements have meaning in your life. Now I am using my blogspot to take another step toward reduction of ageism. Combined responses to Palmore’s Survey were rank ordered and patterns of correlations examined.   One major pattern involving six items appears to reflect attacks on relational self-esteem. Lesser correlations were found involving employment, humour, and victimization.  
This study is a step toward understanding the prevalence of ageist experiences in Canada. I  hope that looking at the major results (step 2) will help increase the opportunities to discuss and reduce ageism within Canada.  
Ageism and Humour
         Cynthia Rich, one of the founders of The Old Women’s Project, in her interview with Lipscomb (2006) commented that “We can do a scholarly analysis of birthday cards—the cards that inform me as an old woman just how disgusting and hideous I am. Then I’m chastised that I don’t have a sense of humour when I object to the same comments we hear used in sexist and racist jokes.”  Ellis and Todd (2005) investigated the use of ageist birthday cards in Canada.  They found that over seventy percent of the cards sent to persons between 70 and 100 years old had negative themes, indicating there is nothing to look forward to in "old age.".
         Ageist humour is often exchanged between friends. “Kidding is a precision instrument for assessing the kind of relationship one has with a person.” (Pinker, p. 554)    Joking may be an outlet for older persons who have internalized the ageist cultural values about themselves and are releasing anxiety in a relatively safe environment.  Ellis and Morrison (2005) suggest that joking about age among peers may be acceptable but is inappropriate when directed toward someone older than one’s self.
          More personal comments were written in the margins of our survey about these two items than any of the others.  One example is “What’s wrong with this? If I lost my sense of humour, I’d be in real trouble.”  Another was “ When I hear I'm starting to joke about age, I put a stop to it right away!”
Crime and Victimization
         While both of these two items were only reported by a small number of respondents, criminal actions against older persons cannot be taken lightly.  Shields, King, Fulks  & Fallon (2002) surveyed older residents in rural Ohio about experiences of criminal victimization.  Respondents reported infrequent  incidences and attributed this to informal support networks.
         Attempts have been made to distinguish between elder abuse and other crimes.  The media is much less likely to focus on other things than elder abuse.  Leedahl & Ferraro (2007) suggest that, in light of the rapidly aging population, unless government takes policy action, this problem could become a major crisis.  Podnieks (2006) argues that increased social inclusion provides an excellent opportunity to bring the issue of elder abuse to the forefront.
Attacks on Self-Esteem
         There's a connection between attacks on self-esteem, being treated with less dignity and respect, being patronized, not being taken seriously and having someone assume that lack of understanding because age seems obvious.   Mark Leary (1999) asserts that the “…self-esteem motive functions not to maintain self-esteem per se but rather to avoid social devaluation and rejection.”(p.32)   Danu, Holmes, & Wood (2007) argue that the connection between one’s self-concept and self-esteem is moderated by the level of a person’s acceptance from others.  It appears that ageist comments directed toward older people forces them toward inclusion in a stereotyped devalued out-group. 
Employment and Age Discrimination
         Much of the existing research on this subject has been conducted in the United Kingdom.  For instance, Duncan and Loretto (2004) found that limitations on promotion were the most common theme reported by respondents of the age of 40+.  Decreased  opportunities for training were also frequently reported.  In spite of changes in age employment policy in the UK, McVittie, McKinlay, and Widdicombe (2003) report that, “Evidence suggests…that equal opportunities have not improved prospects for older workers.” (p.595)   Further, they warn that employers are using “language of equal opportunities” (p.609) to construct a “new ageism”, manipulating language to justify not hiring and discrimination against older workers.
Note: Number of Respondents = 815

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