Saturday, June 5, 2010

Stereotypes About the Elderly and Effects (Research and Video 2:27 mins.)

Like many of you, I belong to several social media networks. However, there is one I seldom use, due to the immaturity I have encountered there, particularly regarding the elderly. Below is a brief summary discussion on a life-threatening topic that I initiated there about seniors and the prevention of HIV/AIDS:

“According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, one-quarter of the one million HIV-positive people in the U.S. are older than age 50. Half are expected to be older than 50 by 2015. People tend not to think of HIV/AIDS as an illness of senior citizens, but it is. Seniors must be committed to not taking sexual risks.”

I received over a dozen responses, some too vulgar to print here, from various people, along with degrading, so-called funny photos of old people. None took this matter seriously. These are a few examples:

1) “You just made me throw-up in my mouth a little.”


3) “What's considered a sexual risk for an old person? Not wearing a   diaper?”

4) “Sex also puts them at risk for hip fractures. That would seriously suck. A hip fracture and aids. Double whammy.”

5) “How about old people just stop having sex?”

So much for intelligent discussion. I am open to constructive, controversial debate, but that group “discussion” took blatant prejudice to another level. Truthfully, it is yet another example of negative stereotypes embedded in our society about the elderly. They are all over the media.

These and other stereotypes affect those who are victimized by them, and impact the elderly in detrimental ways. Research reported in Aging & Mental Health explains that negative aging stereotypes impact how the elderly see themselves and how they function. They become more dependent on others, have lower levels of risk taking, subjective health and extraversion, and higher feelings of loneliness. These are concerns we should keep in mind as we continue to advocate for eldercare improvements.

In this video titled “See the Person, Not the Age,” a young actress transforms herself into a senior and compares people’s reactions toward her. This experiment is part of the Scottish government campaign against ageism, an international problem.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many online and offline booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores.


  1. Excellent discussion, FSP, and fascinating video and project. My great aunt used to talk about the prejudice she faced in her 80s, as shopkeepers helped younger customers even though she had been there first. Another older relative pushes around a shopping cart rather than use a walker because she doesn't want to be treated as elderly or handicapped. There's lots of work for us to do in countering ageism.

    Eleanor Feldman Barbera, PhD

  2. Discrimination is often the result of stereotypes. we should unlearn these stereotypes in order to stop or prevent ageism.