Old and outdated stereotypes still exist and they’re damaging society and the over 50 age group. What do you think of when you consider the word ‘old’?
Chances are, even with a neutral outlook on the older demographic a few negative words came to mind, this is because our views towards age has been shaped by the old and redundant stereotypes that are yet to be beaten.
By representing the older demographic in a true light, we can put a rest to these outdated stereotypes which continue to exist due to the fact that the media doesn’t represent the over 50s.
Without an updated portrayal of the over 50s, attitudes and opinions towards them aren’t going to change. They’re an invisible demographic. Underrepresented by the media and brands to the extent that a survey of 50,000 in this demographic by SunLife showed that:
- 89% of respondents said they believed brands weren’t interested in them
- 72% thought the representation of over 50s is stereotypical and outdated
So why are these stereotypes such a problem?
Research in 2015 by the University of Kent concluded that stereotypes are a ‘major problem’ for this demographic, while also proving they are incredibly damaging.
They study concluded that “older adults’ memory and cognitive performance is negatively affected in situations that signal or remind them of negative age stereotypes.”
“The meta-analysis showed that even a hint that performance was being pre-judged because of age criteria was enough to affect older people’s performance.”
These stereotypes can begin circulating the workplace towards someone as young as 45 years of age, which is more alarming considering the average age in the UK is 40 years old.
So what are the stereotypes we’re talking about, and why are they completely wrong?
This is not the case at all, more and more over 50s are recognising the importance of exercise and weight training. Although we naturally lose muscle mass and bone density as we get older, many combat this through weight training.
2. Unable to learn/change
We’ve all heard the cliche, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but if anything this is down to the individual’s choice to be negligent.
Our intelligence continues to grow as we age, we become wiser, more emotionally intelligent, reasoning and problem skills improve. Older people have the capacity to learn new skills and change their perspectives, and doing so is proven to maintain brain health and keep us psychologically sharp.
This one’s a complete misconception. Findings in a Pew research centre survey show work ethic is one of the main differences between millennials and the older workforce. Nearly 60% of respondents cited work ethic as one of the big differences between young and old while three-fourths of respondents said older people have a better work ethic.
Although a positive work ethic doesn’t always correlate to productivity, with decades of experience in their industry and expertise, over 50s are more likely to be the most efficient workers.
4. Not sexually active
There’s a stigma with old age and sex. A 2014 Saga survey of 9,685 people aged over 50 found 60% are sexually active and 23 per cent are having sex once a week.
Our sex lives don’t stop at a certain age, and studies show that sex gets better as we grow older. In a study published by researchers at the University of Manchester, 80 percent of sexually active men over 50 admit to being satisfied with their sex lives, while 85 percent of sexually active women between the ages of 60 to 69 are satisfied with theirs.
5. A burden to society
The older age group are an asset and superpower to society. Over 50’s make up a third of the UK population but hold 80% of it’s wealth. Their consumer spending hasn’t dwindled either because of Brexit, which has increased 4.4% in the last decade.
They’re leading the way for job creation, generating 10 million jobs in 2016. This makes the economic contribution of the over 50s greater than any other age group.
It’s time we put these toxic and outdated stereotypes – and the resulting prejudice and discrimination they cause – to rest.
Age improves us in so many ways and it’s about time we started celebrating it.