Monday, July 11, 2016
How do we fight negative portrayals of our age group?
Negative portrayals of older adults are pervasive in our society. There is overwhelming evidence that we are faced with negative attitudes in everyday life, be it in the way one communicates with us, in the media , in the work context, and in the realm of health care.
Research suggests not only that we are frequently confronted with negative views of their age group but also that we even share them. How can we protect our self-esteem against the impact of negative perceptions of old age?
In general, people are highly motivated to prevent negative self-images. Research on “cutting off reflected failure” has shown that group members tend to distance themselves from groups that are detrimental to their self-perception.
For example, fans of sport teams tend to distance themselves from their team after a loss. Similarly, research on individual mobility in the context of social identity has shown that some members leave groups that are negatively evaluated. Specifically, people may stay in or leave certain groups as a function of the in-group’s status position.
What this may mean is that as we tend not to think of ourselves as older, we may move away from friends and others who appear or act old. (however we see this notion) I have a saying which for me defines old age. A person is old if they are at least 10 years older than me. So at this stage of my life an old person is someone who is 80 plus. When I was forty an old person was someone who was 50.
We all have our own little tricks that allow us to think of ourselves as young. But as we think about the negatively stereotyped group of older adults, we take steps to differentiate our selves from their age group thus allowing us older adults to protect our self-esteem from the impact of negative age stereotypes.
Differentiation refers to contrasting away from negative views of one’s own age group and distancing oneself from the membership of the group of old people. By focusing on aspects of the self-concept that are different from the negative portrayals of older adults, older adults may counteract their negative impact on self-esteem.
The present research suggests that by focusing on being different from one’s age group, older adults can ward off the of negative age-related information on their self-esteem on an explicit and implicit level. Therefore, contrasting and differentiating oneself from the stereotypical representation of their age group may allow older adults to protect their self-esteem