AGEISM & INTERGENERATIONAL EXCHANGE
Ageism is a long-standing and multifaceted societal problem. An unprecedented shift in aging demographics is occurring around the world. The number of adults ages 60 and over is projected to total 2 billion by 2050, more than doubling the population of older adults recorded in 2015 (WHO, 2018). As the population of older adults grows, ageism (stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination) toward older adults is also increasing (Ng et al., 2015). The devaluation of older adults as incompetent, senile, burdensome, and a drain on society’s resources (e.g., healthcare), along with neglect, abuse, and discrimination are forms of ageism (Cary et al., 2017).
Such negative ageist stereotypes can manifest themselves as discriminatory behavior including receiving fewer promotions and raises in the workplace as well as elder abuse in the form of financial, psychological, and physical abuse (Levy & Macdonald, 2016; Pillemer et al., 2015). Furthermore, exposure to negative views of aging influences older adults’ mental and physical health, and it can influence the future health of younger individuals who believe in and comes to embody negative aging stereotypes (Lamont, Swift, & Abrams, 2015; Levy, 2009; Levy & Apriceno, 2019; Ramírez, Palacios-Espinosa, Dyar, Lytle & Levy, 2018).
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated ageism toward older adults as older adults were the targets of negative stereotypes (e.g., burdensome, frail, vulnerable) and discriminated against in terms of healthcare (e.g., triaging based on age) and employment (Ayalon et al., 2020; Fraser et al., 2020; Monahan et al., 2020; Swift & Chasteen, 2021).
Negative attitudes toward aging have been found across the lifespan, with much research showing that college students endorse stereotypes of older adults. Such misconceptions include viewing older adults as inactive, irritable, unproductive, and worth avoiding (Rupp et al., 2005; Wurtele & Maryuma, 2013). Although most of the ageism literature has focused on older adults, ageism refers to any stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination toward individuals based on age. More recently, research has begun to explore ageism directed toward younger adults. Younger adults are perceived as clueless and burdensome (Fancioli & North, 2021) as well as narcissistic, lazy, and entitled (Stein, 2013).
As such, interventions to reduce ageism among both older adults and undergraduate students are needed.
Thanks to Ashton Applewhite for writing This Chair Rocks, paving the path in ageism activism, collecting and sharing a wealth of resources on aging and ageism, and for all the support and advice.
(Between) Islands, an Intergenerational Mental Health Intervention