Ageing and life-course

Ageing Attitudes Quiz

Take the Ageing Attitudes Quiz as a first step in your Stand Against Ageism. Check your attitudes against these commonly held views of ageing and older persons and find out how much you know about ageing and older people.

1 “All older people are the same.”

Explanation: There is no typical older person, because the older we get, the more diverse we become. Stereotyping is the assumption that all members of a group are the same. Stereotyping is always a mistake, but especially when it comes to age.

2 “Poor heath is inevitable in older age.”

Explanation: While most people will eventually experience health problems as they age, ageing does not necessarily lead to disease and disability. The health and ability of older adults varies greatly, and chronological age does not determine capacity. Some 80-year-olds, for example, are as mentally and physically agile as some 30-year-olds.

3 “An older person is somebody aged 60 years and above.”

Explanation: Ageing is a normal process of human development that extends across the life course. There is no age at which you suddenly become an older person!

And yet “older age”, rather than what people can actually accomplish, is used to tell people when they must stop working, or whether they can access medical screening or care, or whether they are eligible to hold a driving licence, for example.

4 “My attitude to ageing has little or no influence on my health.”

Explanation: Having negative attitudes about getting older can have a serious impact on your health and life expectancy. Researchers found that older adults who had negative attitudes about getting older lived on average 7.5 years shorter than those who didn’t.

(Levy BR et al. Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 2002 83(2):261-270.)

5 “Ageing is an obstacle to a good life and must be overcome.”

Explanation: While many people think of ageing as a problem, ageing actually has many benefits. For example, social and emotional skills improve with age because of the self-knowledge, skills in self-regulation and maintaining stable social relationships that older people have developed over the years.

However, fear of ageing makes managing the changes associated with ageing much harder. Negative attitudes about ageing can damage our sense of self, diminish our opportunities and prospects, segregate us from others in the community, and can actually shorten our lives.

6 “Older adults are a drain on the economy, including health systems.”

Explanation: Older people make significant contribution to our societies, many of which go unrecognised. For example, across the world older adults provide childcare, strengthen communities , and provide economic support to their children and grandchildren.

A study in the United Kingdom showed that contributions by older people, through taxation, spending, and other activities was worth over US$ 50 billion more than the money spent on older people through pensions, welfare, and health combined.

(Cook J. The socio-economic contribution of older people in the UK. Working with Older People, 2011 15(4):141-146.)

7 “Ageism means having negative attitudes and or discriminating against people because of their age.”

Explanation: Ageism is negative stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination against people based on their age. It can affect anybody, but it is more likely to affect older adults.

Ageism can seriously influence policies and services which in turn have a negative impact upon older people. Understanding this and combatting ageism is a first step to making the world more age-friendly.

8 “I can be ageist and not know it.”

Explanation: Most of the time we are not aware of our negative attitudes about older people and about getting older. However, a global survey of 57 countries found that 60% of people felt that older adults were not respected. (World Values Survey 2010-2014)

Negative attitudes are everywhere. The media often stereotypes older people as loveable but forgetful. Greeting cards commonly makes jokes about getting older. We also often tell people that they look younger than their age, which is meant as a compliment – but implies that we think that getting older is bad in itself.

Becoming aware of our everyday negative attitudes about older people and getting older ourselves is the first step to reaping the benefits of ageing and older age.

9 "We can combat ageism!"

Explanation: We can all change our attitudes for the better and it is as simple as ABC.

Awareness: the critical starting point is to acknowledge our own attitudes and prejudices about ageing and older people.

Behaviours: watch for ageist behaviours in and around us, challenge them.

Connections: connect with people of all ages. An equitable society for all ages requires intergenerational collaboration.

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