Gender Differences. Although only a few studies have considered the effect of target sex or gender in perceptions of older individuals, beliefs about older women and men appear to differ at least on some dimensions (Canetto, Kaminski, and Felicio, 1995; Kite, Deaux, and Miele, 1991; Kogan and Mills, 1992; but see also O’Connell and Rotter, 1979). Sontag (1979) suggested that there is a double standard of aging in that women are judged more harshly than men, and some support for this view has been found in the ages selected for the onset of older adult status for men and women (e.g., Dravenstedt, 1976; Zepelin, Sills, and Heath, 1986-1987) as well as in attractiveness ratings (Deutch, Zalenski, and Clarke, 1986). In a study of stereotyping, Hummert and colleagues (1997) also found gender differences. Perceivers associated positive stereotypes with photographs of “young-old” and “middle-old” women less than with similarly aged men, but they associated “old-old” men with positive stereotypes less often than for similarly aged women.
In contrast to this work, O’Connell and Rotter (1979) found little evidence that gender interacts with age in shaping evaluations of older adults. Specifically, they found that 25- and 55-year-old men were rated as more competent than women of those ages, but there were no differences in the competence judgments of 75-year-old men and women. Taken together, these studies suggest that future research is necessary to elucidate how age and gender may interact to shape perceptions. Similarly, there is a dearth of research examining the combined effects of age and other basic categories (e.g., race, sexual orientation) on stereotypes of and attitudes about older adults. It is likely that the combination of these factors, rather than age alone, shapes attitudes and behavior toward individuals (e.g., Conway-Turner, 1995).
Stereotypes such as forgetfulness and mental deficiency generate negative expectancies for older adults that often translate into behavior with respect to housing availability, in the workplace, during medical encounters, and perhaps even with family and friends. As are racial minorities, older adults are susceptible to housing discrimination. One study found, for example, that rooms previously advertised as available for rent were more likely to be described as unavailable when an older person inquired about availability than when a younger person made the inquiry (Page, 1997). Even children have been found to discriminate against older adults (Isaacs and Bearison, 1986). Children (ages 4, 6, or 8) were asked to work on a jigsaw puzzle with either an old (age 75) or a young (age 35) confederate. Results revealed that the children sat farther away from, made less eye contact with, spoke fewer words to, initiated less conversation with, and