tion reviewed the research literature on the stereotypes, attitudes, and behavior of younger adults with respect to older adults. The second section reviewed literature on older adults’ self-concepts, self-stereotypes, and coping in the face of ageism. Overwhelmingly, research from both perspectives reveals that ageist beliefs can negatively influence the life outcomes of older adults, directly as well as through expectancy effects and self-stereotyping. In addition, the reviewed literature reveals important complexities and nuances of age stigma. For instance, not all age-differentiated behavior is the result of negative stereotypes and some such behavior may even be beneficial for older adults. Furthermore, research suggests that many older adults are remarkably resilient in the face of negative stereotypes, employing a variety of coping strategies designed to protect their self-esteem and well-being.
As life expectancy increases, it is neither just nor desirable for society to undermine the effectiveness of such a large component of the population. For instance, when stereotypes lead individuals to restrict themselves to domains in which their groups are not stereotyped negatively, those individuals lose their freedom to participate fully in society and society loses potentially unique contributions to those domains. Consequently, we propose that future research conduct a thorough, systematic examination of the nuances, varieties, and multiple dynamics of ageism. This examination must be grounded in basic science, drawing on the accumulated research of related fields (e.g., gerontology, communication) as well as paying particular attention to the idiosyncrasies associated with advanced age. The present review captures only some of what the social psychology of stigma has to offer to research on aging. We believe that only such a contextualized, interdisciplinary approach will unearth feasible and effective solutions to reduce or even eliminate ageism and its deleterious consequences for older and younger adults alike.
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