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Monday, May 21, 2012

Strengthening Intergenerational Relationships

Ageism and ICAL[i]

         My wife and I founded the Intergenerational Centre of Action Learning (ICAL)[ii] several years ago.  Our goal is to bring together the younger and older age groups in projects that will help them increase familiarity between each other.  For example one of our successful projects had an art painting workshop where young persons and older age adults spent an afternoon together doing art painting. 
         In a book I read recently; A Social-Development View of Ageism created by Joann M. Montepare & Leslie A. Zebrowitz there is a concentration on human development.  After the introduction there is a subheading that reads; What Do Children Know about Age? 
         They reported that research indicates that as children grow up their experience with older persons is a basic experience and these social experiences are “…one of the first and most important social attributes to which children develop a sensitivity that age is “…a primary social concept and that “…children’s earliest social perceptions involve categorization of people on the basis of their age-related characteristics.”  In fact they use the same cues we older people do.
         The important subtitle is; What Are Children’s Attitudes toward Older Adults? The authors proceed to discuss “…children’s feelings toward adults (analogous to prejudice), children’s knowledge about older adults (analogous to stereotypes), and their intended or actual behaviors toward older adults (analogous to discrimination).
         In regard to children’s feelings research indicates that compared to younger persons older adults are “…typically viewed negatively in comparison to younger adults.
         Further children’s beliefs about traits, behaviors and abilities, young people were found to get more complicated including “…older adults’ physical, cognitive, and interpersonal qualities.”  The beliefs are more negative than positive. For instance “A common fear that children have about growing old is becoming sick and dying.
         There also positive stereotypes about older persons in which youths “…often characterize them as un-aggressive, polite, kind, good, friendly and wise”
         Finally we come to subheading Discriminatory Behavior where some research has found “…that children as young as 3 years preferred younger adults over older adults and “…when young children were asked what kind of activities they would engage in with an elderly man, the majority said they would do things like ‘carry things for him’, get his glasses, ‘push him in a wheel chair’, or ‘bury him’.
         For those of you who wish to have more information, there is a description of book at the bottom of this post.  Elizabeth and I intend to continue developing intergenerational projects that will build age equality.  Finally here are:

Ways to Attack Ageism[iii]

Ø    Make Older Adults visible and important
Ø    Educate and foster more positive public attitudes about aging
Ø    Advance social health policy to provoke incentives for active living at all stages of life
Ø    Involve older adults in all aspects of community recreation, planning and civic affairs
Ø    Consider the full spectra of older adult interests and needs in program design.
Ø    Promote intergenerational physical activity

[i]  The factual material for this blog post can be found in Ageism: Stereotyping and Prejudice Against Older Persons (Edited by Todd Nelson ISBN 0-262-14077-2 Published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2002)  [There are 12 chapters and 359 pages focused on various aspects of Ageism
[ii] For a view go to
[iii] For more info go to

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