Promoting Healthy Aging by Confronting Ageism
This article talks about different ways in which the changes associated with ageing/old age can be counteracted. Staying physically active prevents cognitive and functional deterioration as you grow older. Yet 60% of people over the age of 65 are physically inactive. One reason may be negative stereotypes about aging. For example, negative stereotypes about:
• the ability of older people to take up an active lifestyle.
• the effect of physical activity on the health of the elderly.
Age stereotypes and health behavior
According to the stereotypical embodiment theory of Levy (2009), stereotypes about old age are gradually internalized. The degree of adoption of these stereotypes predict behavior around food, alcohol, smoking, health and survival. Little is known about the effect of age stereotypes on physical activity. However, there is some research about the self-perception of older people on old age. Older people with a positive outlook on aging are more likely to participate in physical activities than older people with a less positive outlook. However, more research is needed, especially on how internalisation of old age stereotypes influences participation in physical activities. In their research, the authors look at the role of two personality variables in this process: being open to experiences and implicit theories about capabilities.
Being open to experiences directly predicts having an incremental theory and the attitude towards one’s own aging. Incremental theories predicted the endorsement of old age stereotypes about the benefits of physical activities. Entity theories predicted the endorsement of old age stereotypes about the risks of remaining physically active and the rejection of old age stereotypes about the benefits of remaining physically active.
Effect on physical activities
• Old age stereotypes about the mental capacity of sports indirectly predicted participation in physical activities through an effect on physical self-esteem.
• Old age stereotypes about the benefits of remaining physically active directly predicted the physical activity level and indirectly through the attitudes towards their own aging.
• Old age stereotypes about the risks of remaining physically active directly predicted being physically inactive, and indirectly through the attitudes about their own aging and through physical self-esteem.