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Ageism

  • By: Barbara Cook Overton
  • In: Encyclopedia of Health Communication
  • Edited by: Teresa L. Thompson
  • Subject:Public Health Education & Health Promotion, Health Psychology, Health Communication

Many cultures abhor aging and, by extension, the elderly. Preoccupation with youthful standards of beauty and performance signals an aversion to aging; note the abundance of product advertisements that promise to fight the signs of time, from wrinkle creams to erectile dysfunction medications. Even newspapers perpetuate ageist attitudes; studies find twice as many negatively framed stories about middle age and later life than positive depictions. These stories imply that growing older is synonymous with declining health and deteriorating looks, perpetuating a fear of aging. If these fears manifest in individuals' behavior or language, they risk prejudice against the elderly, or ageism. The term ageism was coined by Robert Butler in 1969 and describes stereotyping and discrimination against people simply because they are old, not unlike ...

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