, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 28-38

Effects of age and interpersonal contact on stereotyping of the elderly

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Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between the age of an individual, the type of contact an individual has with the elderly, the amount of knowledge an individual has about the elderly, and the extent that the individual stereotypes the elderly. In accordance with the Social Identity Theory and the Contact Hypothesis, stereotyping was predicted to be higher among individuals who did not identify with nor have contact with the elderly. Fifty young (18-25 years of age) and fifty elderly (64-79 years of age) participants completed surveys measuring their level of contact with the elderly, knowledge about aging (knowledge score), and tendency to stereotype the elderly (stereotype score). Results of this study indicated that regardless of age, participant knowledge of aging and application of aging stereotypes were affected by the quality of contact experienced. Although the young participants achieved significantly higher knowledge scores than the elderly participants, there was no significant age difference in stereotype scores for the young and elderly groups. However, as predicted, the young and elderly participants who experienced high levels of contact with the elderly achieved higher knowledge scores and lower stereotype scores. These scores were compared to the respective scores of the young and elderly participants experiencing low levels of contact with the elderly. Moreover, the elderly participants experiencing low levels of contact with the elderly achieved lower knowledge scores than any of the other groups. Elderly participants experiencing low levels of contact with other competent elderly individuals may be more susceptible to the negative effects of aging stereotypes and at risk for not identifying with their own social group.