With the senior population growing at an unprecedented rate, ageist prejudice and the intergenerational tensions that it triggers have increased. Princeton University psychology professor Susan Fiske and graduate student Michael North focused on prescriptive ageism—the belief that older adults are different from others. Younger people have preconceived notions about the skills and behaviors of seniors, such as poor memories, bad driving habits and so on. These ageist attitudes, often unwarranted, lead to negative interactions with older adults.
Researchers compiled data from six studies and concluded there are three prescriptive stereotypes endorsed by younger people:
- Succession. Older adults should leave high-paying jobs and social roles to open up avenues for younger people.
- Identity. Older people should act their age and not exhibit younger behaviors.
- Consumption. This prejudice fuels the idea that older people should not consume scarce resources such as healthcare.
But, researchers added, those who at this hold these prejudices and discriminate against older adults will become a part of that same demographic in the future. In an article on the Princeton University website, North remarks, “[I]t’s important to focus on the facts of these demographic changes rather than misguided perceptions. Talking about these issues helps you find constructive ways to address them.”