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The Culture of Elders and Aging

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  • Pages: 6
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  • Category: Ageism

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Anti-aging creams, hair coloring, vitamins, Botox, cosmetic surgries is our culture’s portrayal of aging. The population of the world is aging. In the Journal of Counseling & Development the article titled Using Wellness and Resilience to Predict Age Perception in Older Adults, it states that there are approximately 47.8 million adults age 65 and older living in the United States. The number is expected to increase to 98 million by 2006 (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018). With ageing comes physical, psychological and behavioral changes. Due to this younger people perceive anyone with wrinkled skin or gray hair as old, and many elders convey feelings of ageism in society and the workplace, stereotypes, fears of loneliness, mental and physical wellness, and fears of dying. (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018).


Ageism is the negative attitudes toward older adults (Levy and Macdonald, 2016). There are both positive and negative aspects of ageism. These negative assumptions within a culture influence how older adults are treated within society. (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018). Ageism is frequently an issue in workplace situations. Older adults may have problems finding work, getting promotions or changing careers with ease. (Malinen, 2013). The worldwide population of 60 years and older has been growing and almost doubling since 1980. It is the fasted growing age group and is projected to become 22% of the world population in 2050 (Levy, Macdonald, 2016). There is an expectation that the Elder culture must play a less active and submissive role in our society. There is also a projected view that they are a nuisance, and slow. The physical and mental weakening that can occur within the aging process leads to discrimination and marginalization of the elderly. For example, ageism in the work place can lead an employer to assume that an someone in their 60’s may be slower or have less intellectual capacity to grasp a new process or procedure than someone in their 30’s and therefore forcing them to either go into retirement early or minimize their chances of receiving a raise or promotion (Levy and Macdonald, 2016). Internalizing ageism has negative and positive impacts on physical health and the quality of life as one ages. (Fullen, Geanello, Richardson, and Greanello, 2018). Ageism is a describes discrimination against the old and leads to the stereotypes regarding the Elder Culture.


Stereotype is defined as a preconceived notion, especially about a group of people and their actions, in this case the elderly (vocabulary.com). The media has a big influence on how the elderly are perceived within our society (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018). The Elder culture as a whole is portrayed as frail, weak, even sometimes worthless. They are seen as not being able to take care of themselves and unable to make any decisions. (Levy and Macdonald, 2016). Stereotypes not only exist within society but within the elders personally. “Stereotype embodiment theory proposes that older adults begin holding negative stereotypes about aging when they are young, and as they enter older adulthood, negative beliefs about aging become increasingly salient and self-directs (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018).” Powerful roles are played in the shaping of how we think about individuals within the stereotype as well as how individuals within the stereotype see themselves (Dionigi, 2015). The elderly has stereotypes that are primarily negative. A positive outlook on ageing has been proven to improve physical functioning and has added seven and a half years of longer life than that of someone with a negative perception on aging (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018). There have been studies on how stereotypes of aging effect mental and physical functioning and the overall quality of life. “Physical and cognitive declines later in life can be explained by psychosocial and sociocultural factors… (Dionigi, 2015) are demonstrated by stereotypes and their effects on the elder’s health. These same studies have shown that positive aging stereo types can have different effects on the elder’s attitude and overall health compared to negative aging stereotypes. Different cultures have different stereotypes and perception of the elders. Elders are to be celebrated and affirmed as a significant and productive respectful and wise part of society (Fung, 2013).

Mental and Physical Wellness

There are multiple factors for mental health problems at any point in anyone’s life. The elderly may experience things that a younger person may also experience, but some stressful things are more common as one ages. For example, they may experience chronic pain, declines in cognitive and functional ability, and reduced mobility. These are just an example of a few things that can add mental strains and stresses on the older generation (Dionigi, 2015). Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello (2018) stated that the difference in the quality of life and it’s mental and physical effects can come down to a positive verse a negative outlook. A study by Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello states that “cultivating total wellness and resilience may result in positive self-concept as people age.” It is also one of the first studies that empirically link wellness with positive age perception. Demonstrating that a positive outlook of aging can affect the quality of life (Fullen, Geranello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018). Older adults are more vulnerable to elder abuse. This abuse includes physical, verbal, psychological and even financial. Not only is the abuse physical, but it can lead to long term psychological issues like depression, loss of dignity and respect, and anxiety (Rosen, 2014). In the article titled, Where Mental Health and Elder Abuse Intersect, it states that elders with dementia and mental illness are more often the victims of this abuse from a caretaker or any other person. “Elder abuse largely takes place in the community, though it can occur in nursing facilities and in assisted living facilities. Elder abuse results in an increase in mental health issues in those that have been abused. Elders experiencing abuse have a significantly higher risk of psychological stress, low self-esteem and even mortality compared to those who have not been abused (Rosen, 2014).” The abuse causes victims to feel ashamed and guilty and this leads to isolation and depression. Isolation and depression can harm the functioning of daily activities and life and mental health. This in turn can lead to poor health and sometimes even death. (Rosen, 2014). Physical wellness is important to older people. In previous studies has been shown to link physical well-being to cognitive health. “Older adults that have a negative outlook on their ageing are less likely to take care of their physical wellness” (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018).

Fear of Death

Anxiety can increase with aging and the fear of worsening of mental and physical health that can lead to death. However, there are anxieties and fears associated with the fear of dying and life after death. Both of these types of anxieties can lead to ageism. (Bodner, Shirara, Bergman, Cohen-Fridel, Grossman, 2015). It is thought the fear of death generates anxiety and the elder generation try to offset that fear by seeking a security in things such as religion or spirituality. This also feeds into an example of a stereotype that old people become more religious. In different cultures elders have beliefs, values, and norms that can help them come to terms with the fear of death. (Fung, 2013). Death anxiety is defined as “the feeling of dread, apprehension or solicitude when one thinks of dying, or ceasing to be” (Wikipedia.org). There have been studies that show the contrary of the stereotype that the death anxiety is more in the elderly and as one ages. The studies show that death anxiety in cases of elderly people are less than that of younger people. (Fullen, Granello, Richardson, and Granello, 2018).

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