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Friday, May 18, 2012

Our Study of Ageism

              In the early 1990’s I began my journey in the study of ageism.  Along the way, I the assistance of two young men, Yongjie Yon and Lawrence Prasade who have gone on to excellent adulthood.  With their help I was able to make my only trip away from North American when I was invited to an International Conference in Barcelona Spain; where I was able to share our research findings.
            Those of you who have been following this blog, with over 131 postings, during the last three years know that I divide my attention between the study of ageism and retirement.  Recently I came across the material I used to present when I went to Spain.  I intend to share it on this blog entry.
            The data comes from the nearly 600 persons, 55 or older from Port Coquitlam, Vancouver, Langley Township.  Senior’s centres and Recreation Centres were our primary source of respondents.
 Now to the results:
           Over all, just over 80% of the respondents reported that they had experience some form of ageism.  Below are the major categories

  • The most common report was being he target of ageist humour. This  type of ageism is confined almost entirely to persons with European backgrounds and generated the most diverse marginal comments. We have referred to this type of ageism as 

Personal Ageism.
·      The non-European groups experienced more Institutional Ageism than Personal Ageism
·      Older South Asians were more likely to be denied rental housing, denied employment, have difficulty getting loans, be ignored by waiters, be not taken seriously and ignored generally.
·        Among the Chinese community, just less than a third has been denied employment because of age. Generally they appear to be more “buffered” than other groups in the experience of ageism.
·      Persons under 64 years old and those 65-74 reported ageism more often 
·       Persons 54 to 65 reported more work related ageism being       rejected on the basis of how they look.                     
·      Persons 65-75 experienced more ageist humor and were refused rental housing more often.

Gender  We found gender to be an interesting predictor of age                             discrimination
·       Older women experienced more personal ageism For  instance  they reported being talked down to and being the object of jokes more than older men
·      Older men reported more institutional ageism including having difficulty getting rental housing and loans; they were also more likely to be called bad names.                   
 Levels of Education:  On this variable, ageism tended to follow a positive linear pattern
·       More education = more ageism.  As the number of years spent in school increased, persons were more likely to be treated with less dignity and respect, to be patronized, talked down to and denied having promotions at work.

Inter-item correlations 
·      A general pattern, experienced equally by all groups was, being treated with less dignity and respect, being ignored, being not taken seriously, being patronized and talked down to and having other assume they have difficulty understanding.
·      We see this as a pattern of attacks on self- esteem. Perhaps this is where the humour and jokes come in. One respondent, on the back of his survey wrote. “ If I didn’t keep my sense of humour, I’d be in real trouble

 One response equally prevalent among all groups was:
·      “Being told by a doctor or nurse that one’s problems are caused by age,” This is particularly troubling because it suggests that older people may be dismissed and not taken seriously.  From comments written on the back of the surveys, respondents were not happy with it.
Looking into the future
We are committed to raising awareness and to   uncovering the roots of the Ageism “epidemic.” 
 My wife and I have created ICAL, The intergenerational Centre for Action Learning.  If you are interested go to Take a look and let me know what you think.

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