Understanding the Problem of Ageism

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Updated: Jun 03, 2021
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Understanding the Problem of Ageism essay

Ageism, a negative attitude toward older persons, a fear of growing old, is an integral part of U.S. culture today (Butler, 1975). Attitudes of children and adults toward older persons have varied across cultures with time. In cultures where few reached old age, where older persons owned the land or the means of production, acted as religious or political figures, and were the bearers of knowledge, they were respected and powerful despite senescence. In industrialized societies, where many persons attain old age, attitudes toward older persons have tended to be more negative (Barrow, 1979). In the words of Katz (1978) Kinship ties, maintenance of age-related traditions, respect of knowledge and wisdom of the aged have all been associated with high status for the elderly and positive feelings about growing old. However, under modern conditions of rapid increases in the relative and absolute numbers of the aged, and a general decline in extended kinship systems, it is not surprising to find a predominant negative perception about the prospects of growing old regardless of culture.

Gruman ( 1978) reported that the roots of ageism in our culture can be traced to the close of the frontier at the beginning of this century. Goals shifted to a strong aggressive nation conquering weaknesses at home and new territories abroad. Immigration quotas were established that limited the entry of older persons into the United States. Early research on older persons concentrated on those living on poor farms and in mental hospitals (i.e., the impaired elderly). This increased the negative attitudes in a society already oriented toward youth and productivity.

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Most people today accept the fact that ageism is present in our culture (Barrow & Smith, 1979). Culture is a dynamic and changing reality, however. The Protestant work ethic and the value of productivity and youth are no longer unquestionable absolutes. Are ageist attitudes changing, and where might such changes be noticed? No one really knows when attitudes develop; however, it appears that values and attitudes developed early in life are those that are more lasting over time. Early learning appears to color one’s perception of all that is learned subsequently (Henderson, Morris, & Fitz-Gibbon, I978).

Very little data have been gathered and reported in the literature concerning children’s attitudes toward older per­ sons. A review of existing research revealed a lack of research studies on children (below adolescent age) in terms of attitudes held toward age and the aging. Robertson (1976) studied children’s perceptions of grandparents as old-fashioned and out of touch. The aged were regarded as significant sources of influence on their grand­ children’s lives. He also found that the young adults perceived definite responsibilities for their grandparent’s welfare, care, and psychophysiological well-being. Challenging these myths and educating children and younger adults at an early age helps moulds caregiving and other positive outlook towards the elderly of the society. This in turn shows a more liberal attitude of elderly towards the ever evolving socio-political issues of the society. 

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Understanding the Problem of Ageism. (2021, Jun 03). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/understanding-the-problem-of-ageism/