Older adults' experience of ageism during the COVID-19 pandemic
Citation:Ward, M. and Kenny, R. A., Older adults' experience of ageism during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dublin, TILDA, December, 2020
Despite the fact that the vast majority of older adults are not physically, cognitively or mentally impaired, age-related stereotypes persist. These stereotypes commonly portray older adults as physically and cognitively weak. Importantly, the experience of negative stereotypes about older adults and ageing can negatively affect individuals. Experimental studies have shown that when confronted with negative stereotypes, older adults can experience a reduction in physical ability, slow walking speed, altered heart activity, reduced memory performance and in some cases a diminished will to live (Roberston, 2016). Sadly, there have been many examples during the COVID-19 of potentially harmful ageist attitudes. There are numerous examples in print and online media of older adults being viewed not only as more susceptible to infection and severe consequences of infection, but also as vectors of COVID-19 and therefore posing a risk to others. An extreme example of this suggested that COVID-19 “might (from an economic perspective) even prove mildly beneficial in the long term by disproportionately culling elderly dependents” (Jeremy Warner, ‘Does the Fed know something the rest of us do not with its panicked interest rate cut?’ Daily Telegraph March 3rd). Such a narrative can only add to the stress currently experienced by older adults. Some of this type of ageist language and attitudes also pervaded heath policy both here and elsewhere (Vervaecke and Meisner, 2020). Method: This research brief is based on 3,614 Self-Completion Questionnaires completed by participants of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA). This study population consists of community-dwelling adults aged 60 years and older. Data were collected between June and October 2020. Results: Participants were asked how they feel people aged 70 and over have been treated by the general public in public spaces such as parks and walkways, in shops, and in their local community. Overall, 18% feel that the over 70s are treated negatively or very negatively in public spaces, 13% in shops, and 7% in the local community. As shown in Figure 1, there is little difference between participants who are older or younger than 70 years in the percentage reporting negative treatment, but there was some evidence the under 70s tending to feel that the over 70s are treated negatively in each of the three settings. A higher percentage of participants feel these attitudes occur in public places rather than in their local community.
Health Research Board (HRB)
Author: Ward, Mark
Type of material:Report
Availability:Full text available