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Ageism: the Universal

James M. Ryan
Defining Ageism

Origins of Ageism
Begins with an Attitude
Three forces at work
Prejudice- Affective
Discrimination- Behavioral
Stereotyping- Cognitive
Stereotyping is largely unconscious
At its root is our desire to assign objects, events and
people meaning and classes according to our own beliefs
and expectations
Research Suggests Three
Prominent Causes of Ageism

Succession, the idea that older adults should move aside
from high-paying jobs and prominent social roles to
make way for younger people;
Identity, the idea that older people should not attempt
to act younger than they are; and
Consumption, the idea that seniors should not consume
so many scarce resources such as health care.

Common Assumptions of Ageism
Everyone knows that you cant teach an old dog new
As soon as a person can be described as old they are
automatically considered:
Of little value
A burden on society
Slow to accept change
Interpersonally and Economically dependent
Slow, deaf or stupid
Ill health
Conservative politically
Victims of Ageism
Individuals over the age of 85 make up the fastest-
growing segment of the U.S. population.
Nearly 35 million Americans are over 65 years old,
according to the 2000 U.S. Census, and that number is
expected to double by 2030 to 20 percent of the
Workers over age 55 make up 54 percent of the long-
term unemployed as of 2012.
According to a Government Accountability Office study
released in 2012, these employees typically take a
bigger pay cut than their younger counterparts.
An Example:

Ageism vs. the Other Isms
Ageism in the Medical
Elderly Patients are oftentimes neglected and maltreated
due to assumptions that their age precipitates their
Older patients are often viewed by health professionals
as set in their ways and unable to change their behavior,
aging experts say. Mental health problems--such as
cognitive impairment or psychological disorders caused
at least in part by complex pharmacological treatments--
often go unrecognized and untreated in this growing
demographic, many researchers believe. (Dittmann,

The Effects of Ageism
Internal: Ageism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, many older people
are the most ageist towards themselves. They internalize the cultural
messages of inferiority and stagnate oftentimes resulting in poor health.
Age stereotypes are often internalized at a young age--long before they are
even relevant to people
Casual: Depressed elderly people are less likely to seek medical help,
leading to avoidable illnesses and deaths.
Could it be that ageism explains why European American men have the highest
rate of suicide of any age, gender, or ethnicity?
In a longitudinal study of 660 people 50 years and older, in the Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology (Vol. 83, No. 2), those with more positive
self-perceptions of aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-
perceptions of aging.
Practical: Elderspeak aka baby talk for the elderly
A condescending way of speaking to older adults that resembles baby talk,
with simple and short sentences, exaggerated emphasis, repetition, and a
slower rate and a higher pitch than used in normal speech. (Berger, 2011)
The Reality of Aging:
Truth vs. Lies
We all are going to get old if
we live long enough.
As the body ages, it slowly
deteriorates from the wear
and tear of life.
Most elderly people are happy,
healthy and active.
Only 10% percent of the
elderly are dependent, and
only 4% are in nursing homes
or hospitals.
Stereotypes matter, they can
affect the way we view and
treat others.

Age determines who we
Old people are by nature
slow, feeble and sickly.
Old people are grumpy,
miserable, and cripple.
All old people live in
nursing homes waiting to
Stereotypes are harmless,
they dont really hurt
Assisted Living Federation of America. (2013, April 24).
Reserchers find three causes of ageism. Retrieved from
Brenoff, A. (2012, November 13). Age discrimination:
Older workers worry about hiring bias. The Huffington
Post. Retrieved from
Dittmann, M. (2003). Fighting ageism. Monitor on
Psychology, 34(5), 50. Retrieved from