Three Causes of Age Stereotypes
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Debunking Myths and Promoting Cross-Generation Learning
Princeton University psychology professor Susan Fiske and graduate student Michael North conducted research on the challenge society faces to adjust to a graying population and the intergenerational tensions that can arise.
While most are familiar with descriptive ageist prejudice, in which seniors are discriminated against based on negative stereotypes (i.e. seniors are “slow” or have poor memory), the researchers focused on ageism that is based on what psychologists call prescriptive prejudice.
Prescriptive ageist prejudices are beliefs about how older adults should differ from others. When older adults do not adhere to these beliefs, they are punished by those who discriminate against them.
The researchers found that the prescriptive stereotypes center on three key issues:
- 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.