Inequalities Related to Aging
In previous chapters. we have seen how prejudice and discrimination may be directed toward individuals based on ascribed characteristics-such asrace/ethnicity
or gender-over which they have no control. The same holds true for age.
Stereotypes regarding older persons reinforce ageism. defined in Chapter 4 as prejudice and discrimination against people on the basis of age, particularly against
older persons. Ageism agains older persons is rooted in the assumption that people become unattractive. unintelligent. asexual. unemployable. and mentally in competent as they grow older. Ageism is reinforced by stereotypes, whereby people have narrow. fixed images of certain groups. One sided and exaggerated images of older people are use drepeatedly in everyday life. Older persons are often
stereotyped as thinking and moving slowly; as being bound to themselvs and their past. unable to change and grow; as being unable to move forward and often moving backward. They are viewed as cranky. sickly. and lacking in social value; as egocentric and demanding; s shallow. enfeebled. aimless. and absentminded. The media contribute to negative images of older persons. many of whom are portrayed as doddering. feebleminded. wrinkled. and laughable men andwomen. literally standing on their last legs (see Box 12.3). This is especially true with regard to advertising. In one survey, 40 percent of respondents over age 65 greed that advertising portrays older people as unattractive and incon~petent (Pomice, 1990). According to the advertising director of one magazine. “Advertising shows young people at their best and most beautiful. but it shows older people at their worst” (qtd, in Pernice, 1990: 42). Of older persons who do appear on television. most are male; only about one in ten characters appearing to be age 65 or older is a woman.
conveying a subtle message that older women are especially unimportant (Pomlce, 1990).