Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ageism and the Promise of... Mick Jagger?!?!?

Originally posted on solizresearch.com by Jordan Soliz:
I just recently watched a TED talk by Dr. Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevitiy, in which she discusses the research that shows people are actually happier as they age into older adulthood. What made this talk interesting and why I suggest people listen to it (or watch it) is that it goes against many of our attitudes about older adulthood and aging which are typically fairly negative. In fact, Dr. Mary Kite and her colleagues synthesized the research that compared people’s attitudes toward older and younger adults and, not surprisingly, found that we typically perceive younger adults more positively than older adults and still hold negative views toward older adults. Obviously, these negative attitudes have implications for how many people treat and interact with older adults just as we would expect when thinking about negative attitudes towards ethnic and religious groups. In fact, in one of his farewell addresses, the Archbishop of Canterbury made it a point to emphasize ending stereotypes and negative attitudes toward older adults (HT: Craig Fowler) as ageism remains a common form of prejudice. Yet, ageism does not receive the same amount of attention as other “isms.” But, beyond the significance of improving our attitudes toward older adults and aging for the sake of others, we should also do it for ourselves! Why? For two reasons. First, we all get older so improving attitudes toward older adults will only serve us well in the future. Second, we know that our attitudes toward aging are directly linked to happiness and well-being in later life. This is fairly intuitive--if I have negative views towards aging and older adults, I am more likely to meet this part of my lifespan with discouragement, pessimism, and, thus, have a higher chance for depression or a general negative outlook on life. 

How do we improve these attitudes and recognize what Dr. Carstensen and others have discussed in terms of the positive side of aging and older adulthood? Our negative attitudes and stereotypes toward aging are pretty ingrained in us and we live in a culture which treats aging as something that should be avoided (i.e., “anti-aging”)… as if we have a choice! So, changing these perceptions and attitudes is easier said than done. Building off research focused on improving interethnic relations, scholars have examined if intergenerational contact can improve attitudes toward older adults and aging. In my own research, I have connected experiences with grandparents (which are fairly positive) with improved intergenerational attitudes. But, this only provides one piece of the puzzle. Much like our efforts towards reducing negative attitudes toward ethnic, religious, and cultural groups, we should be just as active in reducing ageist attitudes.  This may be difficult or it may just be a matter of us being more discerning about what we see and experience and realize the variety of experiences involved in this thing called "aging."  As I was reminded recently in discussions of their reunion tour on the radio,  Mick Jagger is nearly 70 years old. Yet, he is still strutting around on stage singing about his lack of satisfaction among other things (quick side note: "Beast of Burden" is the best Stones' song). When we think of a 69-year old man, what comes to mind? Its probably not Mick Jagger---not likely, right? But, the question we should ask is: "why not?" 

No comments:

Post a Comment