An evaluation of the effects of societal and individual stereotypes toward aging.
This paper explores what it means to grow old in today’s often uncompassionate society. It discusses the perception that aging is not only seen as being one step closer to death, but it is traditionally associated with images of physical illness, senility and helplessness and shows ,in contrast, that the elderly are a vastly diverse group of individuals that cannot be so easily classified. It provides a brief history of the science of aging and of the stereotypes that have contributed to the attitude of ageism in society today. It examines how the older population is forever expanding, its economic and political bases are becoming stronger and its technological sophistication is growing at a remarkably swift pace and how the images most of society holds of the senior sect have not evolved at the same rate.
For example, recent studies have shown that changes in mental abilities of older people vary as much as their physical abilities and that mental decline is not inevitable. Learning a new language in later life, for example, might require more effort, but on the other hand the older language learner may be perfectly capable of exerting that effort. Studies also show that physical activity, along with a strong social support system and a belief in one’s ability to handle what life has to offer, can all make significant contributions to strong mental function in old age (Matcha, 1996).