We hope the information that follows will help you become aware of your own perceptions of ageing.
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How old are you?
This question is, of course, your personal information.
What age do you think of yourself as being?
This question has to do with personal perception of age. It usually is reflective of your mental acuity and physical ability. Everyone is different.
What age do you consider to be "old"?
Again, this is a question of perceptions based on role models and the environment in which you have experienced older individuals/groups. Very often those under 20 consider 45 to be old. There is no right or wrong answer.
FACT: As of the 2016 Canadian Census there are more people over the age of 65 than those under the age of 14. This trend will continue and likely double within the next two decades.
When you think about old people, which of the following words best describe the characteristics of being “old”.
a. happy b. forgetful c. lonely d. carefre e. optimistic f. dependent g. grumpy h. beautiful i. respected j. vulnerable k. wise
If you chose mostly the words in red, you may have an unconscious internal negative bias towards ageing or older adults. This isn't bad, it just means that you might want to become more aware of your natural inclinations or bias.
FACTS: Language is a powerful tool and the words we use to describe people are good indicators of our inherent biases. There is a great deal of research that explores discriminatory linguistic encoding and it reveals that we cannot address discrimination without addressing its links in language. The langage of ageism is complicated and people can express a negative bias without meaning to do so. For example the statement, "you look good for your age" (implies that older isn't as attractive as younger) or "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" (this perpetuates the myth that you can't learn when older).
Do you believe older workers are taking jobs away from younger workers?
FACTS: In studies done looking at subjective age versus chronological age, the biggest differences were found in those areas of life in which negative stereotypes are greatest. For instance, in North America we tend to think of older adults as less competent at work than younger workers. In this area, subjective age was significantly different from biological age. (Kornadt, A.E., Hess, T.M., Voss, P., & Rothermund, K. (2018). (Subjective age across the life span: A differentiated, longitudinal approach. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 73, 767–777.)
The belief that younger workers can't get jobs until older workers leave the workforce is known as the "Lump of Labour Fallacy". It was once an argument used to keep women out of the workforce. In reality, when older adults work or become entrepreneurs, they have more discretionary funds to spend. This consequently creates more jobs.
The percentage of seniors who reported working nearly doubled between 1995 and 2015. Of the seniors who worked in 2015, about 30.0% did so full year, full time, and the majority were men. (Statistics Canada, 2016 Census).
As people age they are less able to adapt and learn new skills.
FACT: "A new generation of neuroscientists, psychologists and behavioral scientists is unraveling the hidden powers of the experienced mind. Their research shows that as we get older our brain health actually improves in some areas. We tend to get better at seeing the big picture and zeroing in on the simple and meaningful core of things—their gist, or essence. Our recall may be slow but at the same time the brain’s gist capacity blossoms.” (The Hidden Power of the Experienced Mind, Rick Bowers,https://lifereimagined.aarp.org/page/signature/22581-The-Hidden-Power-of-the-Experienced-Mind)
Older adults are neither as innovative nor as creative as their younger counterparts.
FACT: Research suggests that older workers can actually be more innovative than their younger counterparts. According to a Kellogg study, people become more innovative at older ages. One explanation offered is that it takes time for education and work experience to settle in our brain and trigger new ideas about better ways of doing things (Jones, Benjamin F., (April 2008), Age and Great Invention).
Investing in professional development and capacity building for older workers (over 55) is good for business.
FACT: Encouraging later life working is good for the economy and good for individuals –and it is also good for business. Research suggests the majority of older workers are just as productive as younger staff (at least up to age 70). Benefits of retaining older workers include: retention of experience and corporate memory; lower staff turnover as older workers tend to commit to their jobs; lower costs for recruitment and training; higher customer satisfaction when provided with age diverse services, especially with an ageing population; improved staff morale. ( A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit, Report to Government by Dr Ros Altmann Business Champion for Older Workers, CBE, 2015)
Most research illustrates that there is no relationship between age and job performance when it comes to productivity (Tergesen, Anne, (November, 2016), ' Five Myths About Landing A Good Job Later in Life;Wall Street Journal)
How do you envision the last decades of your life? (select one)
a) decline b) continuum c) growth
IF YOU ANSWERED "A" YOU HAVE A MORE NEGATIVE BIAS TOWARDS AGEING.
Again, there is no right answer but what you think has an impact on what happens in your later years. The following might be enlightening:
FACT: There is increasing evidence that happiness through life is U shaped. Life satisfaction falls in our 20s and 30s, hits an all-time low in our 40s, and then starts increasing until our 80s. In short, the older you get the happier you are. (The Happiness Curve: Why Life gets Better after 50, Jonathan Rauch)
Have you ever thought that your attitudes and feelings about ageing may have been affected by public messaging in birthday cards for the elderly, magazines, TV or the movies?
Historically, all media reflect the values of a culture. When the values change so do news programs, magazines, TV, movies and social media. Presently and in the recent past, North America has been youth-obsessed to the detriment of older populations. With the shifting demographic, there will be more evidence of media that accepts (maybe even begins to venerate) what it means to be old. This is due to the economic power of the Boomer generation. There is already a shift. Ads today show more gray-haired couples, and magazines show active older individuals rock climbing, cycling, kayaking, etc.. This was uncommon even 5 years ago.
At the Top Sixty Over Sixty, we advocate for fair treatment of both young and old. We don't see the need to segregate our lives according to age, but we do believe it's time to move on and alter the negative narrative about ageing.
If you find these facts surprising or unbelievable, then you may have an unconscious age bias. If you'd like to learn more about ageing wise and well, subscribe to our free monthly newletter by sending your name and email to firstname.lastname@example.org or completeing the blue contact box on our homepage.