[Paleopsych] BBC: Age prejudice 'ubiquitous in UK'

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Sun Sep 18 01:26:33 UTC 2005

Age prejudice 'ubiquitous in UK'

Get to 49 and it seems you could be "over the hill" - at least that's
how many of us perceive it.

Forty-nine is the age that people, on average, in a Kent University
study stated that youth came to an end.

The UK-wide survey has thrown up some interesting facts on how we
view people who are older or younger than us, and just how far our
prejudice extends.

And it is clear that teenagers as well as pensioners can sometimes
feel put down because of their age.

"We shouldn't forget that one of the important targets of ageism is
young people. They feel very aggrieved about the stereotypes that
portray them as nasty yobs who are drunk all the time," Dominic
Abrams, a professor of social psychology at Kent, said.

His study was conducted for the charity Age Concern. Some of the
results have been released here at the British Association's Festival
of Science.

They come from detailed interviews with 1,843 people over the age of
16, and they appear to show that age prejudice is ubiquitous in
British society.

More people (29%) reported suffering age discrimination than any
other form of discrimination.

"Ageism is the most pervasive form of prejudice in Britain today,"
Dominic Abrams said.

"Ageism is the form of prejudice experienced most commonly by people
in the UK and that seems to be true pretty much across gender,
ethnicity, religion, disability - people of all types experience
ageism, and indeed people of all ages experience ageism."

The study reveals just how strongly perception of ageing is related
to the age of the perceiver, and - to a degree - by the sex of the
perceiver, too.

For example, the arrival of old age recedes into the distance as one
gets older.

So, if you are a 24-year-old man, you think old age arrives at 55;
but if you are a 62-year-old woman, you consider youth to end at 57.

The fact that criteria "float" makes the task of detecting and
tackling ageism particularly challenging, according to Professor
Abrams, and has to be considered when developing strategies to undo
the usual stereotypes - that old people are "doddery but dear" or
that young people are "shallow and callous".

Some other findings from the interviews show:
  From age 55 onwards, people are nearly twice as likely to have
experienced age prejudice than any other form of discrimination
Nearly 30% of people believe there is more prejudice against the old
than five years ago, and that this will continue to get worse
One third of people think that the demographic shift towards an older
society will make life worse in terms of standards of living,
security, health, jobs and education
One in three respondents said they viewed the over-70s as incompetent
and incapable.
One key point is that a half of all people under the age of 24 have
no friends over 70, and vice versa. And the data shows that those
without intergenerational friendships are also more likely to hold
negative beliefs about the competence of people over 70.

"Inter-group contact and positive relationships across the
generations seem to be an important mechanism for combating ageist
stereotypes," Professor Abrams said.

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