Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Friendships, Stereotypes (Older Adult Research, Video 1:51)

Children as young as three years old have already started internalizing negative stereotypes about aging. A quick review of media portrayals of older adults and comments from people about them are great teachers for young impressionable minds. A greater problem, however, is that too many of the negative stereotypes young people internalize can stay with them throughout their own aging and unconsciously become embedded in their own lifestyles.

A common stereotype about aging is the portrayal of older adults as being lonely with little social support. Can expectations about aging impact friendships? Research focused on the relationship between positive aging expectations and later life friendships was done to explore these connections. This study examined questionnaire data from the Baltimore Experience Corps Trial, a randomized volunteer intervention for adults aged 60 years and older. Associations between expectations about aging and different types of social support were tested with these results:

1) Participants with more positive expectations at baseline increased their number of friends two years later and had greater overall perceived support availability twelve months later.

2) Only participants with at least average perceived support availability at baseline showed an association between expectations and later support availability.

These results are the first to link overall positive expectations regarding aging to the social domain. They confirm that overall expectations regarding aging can impact older adults, not only physically and cognitively, but also socially.

Shouldn’t we all just affirm our own healthy aging by promoting positive images about ourselves? Shouldn’t we just live our best lives and not limit ourselves based on our age numbers? Meet Millie and Evelyn who met at the retirement home where they live and quickly became best friends. In this video, they talk about the importance of friendships as they age.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback and e-book editions in America and other countries at online and offline booksellers.

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