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When I’m 64
fecting behavior, there is a need to further examine the nature of age stereotypes and multiple categories embedded in a social context. As the population of older workers is growing, an important topic is stereotyping in the workforce—the interfaces among employment status and age and occupational roles and stereotypic beliefs. This topic is particularly important in that older adults’ alleged incompetence often lies in the eye of the beholder. Since relatively little relationship has been found between age and job performance (Salthouse and Maurer, 1996), it is important to identify social context effects that moderate such perceptions. Other status variables such as health, gender, and ethnicity may interact with age to produce combined categories. How various stereotype categories become activated has implications for hiring practices, training, and retirement.
Another important process that needs to be considered is the context in which the elderly person is being evaluated. According to the shifting standards framework, people make judgments about individuals who belong to stereotyped groups on the basis of within-category judgments (Biernat, 2003; Biernat and Manis, 1994). For instance, because men are assumed to be stronger than women, when a women is described as strong there is an implied assumption that she is strong for a woman. Thus, the description depends on the context and how the meaning of the word “strong” differs for men and women. Similarly, if one says an elderly person is healthy, it likely reflects a judgment made in comparison to other older adults. And even if there are objective differences in memory performance, an elderly individual may be judged to have a good memory because of the implicit comparison against other older adults.
AGE IDENTITY AND SELF-CONCEPT
Recent research suggests that older adults do not necessarily internalize negative aging stereotypes (Zebrowitz, 2003). It is possible for people to know certain information about themselves, but have contradictory feelings about that information. For instance, although people may be accurate in reporting their objective age and even use terms that are appropriate for their age group, they may subjectively view themselves as being much younger than that age. That is, they may believe certain stereotypes about older adults, but not believe that those stereotypes apply to them because they are not, subjectively, old. On implicit measures of age identity, older adults identify with the category “young” as strongly as do younger adults (Levy and Banaji, 2002). What accounts for individual differences in age identity and what are the effects of those differences on the quality of life for older adults?
It may be possible, paradoxically, that a lifetime of discrimination is protective in old age. There is considerable evidence in the social psychol-