Top 20 stereotypes of older people

How do you feel about stereotypes? Damaging? Helpful?

Stereotypes are defined as oversimplified, exaggerated beliefs about a group or category of people. Stereotypes may be positive or negative, but they are nearly always distortions of fact.

For example, we generalise when we say that the English are snobbish and reserved, the Irish are witty and pugnacious, intelligent children have high foreheads, and redheads are quick-tempered. These generalisations are erroneous because they do not take into account the many variations within a group and because they indiscriminately attribute the same characteristics to all the members.

Many stereotypes or “myth-conceptions” surround older people and the aging process.

The following list includes some of the more common myths that we encounter every day:

  1. Most older people live in institutions
  2.  Retirement is less difficult for women than it is for men
  3.  Alzheimer’s disease is to be expected with old age
  4.  Older workers are less productive than younger workers
  5.  Sickness and disability come with old age
  6.  Older people cannot learn
  7.  Older people are more fearful of death than are younger people
  8. Old people are sweet and kind and at peace with the world
  9. Old people are weak and helpless
  10. Old people have no interest in or capacity for sexual activity.
  11. Old people are boring and forgetful
  12. Old people are unproductive
  13. Old people are grouchy and cantankerous
  14. Old women are a burden on everyone
  15. Old age begins at 60
  16. Old people do not have feelings
  17. Old people are past being consulted about anything – even their own lives. 
  18. The majority of older people are set in their ways, unable to change
  19. The majority of older people view themselves as being in poor health
  20. The majority of older people are lonely and are isolated from their families

How do you feel about these?

Do you find that you re enforced these stereotypes or perhaps give way to other peoples perception as it is easier.

We obviously cannot fight all perceptions, that would be exhausting! But can we, simply through our actions, ensure that we educate all we come into contact with. For example, although we can only control certain aspects of our health we can make sure that our attitude towards it is more positive.

Sharing a smile, a laugh and an interesting story will not only make anyone we are in contact with feel better but also share the wonderful person we are inside.

Over time I hope to work on breaking down these stereotypes in my own environment, what can you do?