Our own beliefs become self-fulfilling prophecies – whatever our beliefs are about aging are likely to become our truth.
For example, do you believe that getting old means an inevitable decline in your physical abilities & your mental faculties, your independence and the nimber of friends; an increase in chronic health issues, pain and inability to do what you used to? Do you live in a society which doesn’t respect age and regards you as being on the scrap heap at 55?
Or do you believe that getting old means leaving a stressful job, being able to do all the things you want, having grandchildren to enjoy, getting involved with new things? Do you live in a society which respects age as bestowing wisdom and importance?
No-one is going to admit to being ageist but a test to reveal hidden attitudes has been developed by Harvard University. 80% of respondents have been shown to hold negative views of older people. The shocking discovery is that older people themselves hold those negative views.
Professor Erber discovered that when young people forget, it’s ascribed to a lack of attention, but older people are dismissed as incompetent when they do the same.
People are seen as becoming worse at their job as they age despite the lack of evidence to prove that they do. An experiment conducted by the State University of New York showed people chose younger applicants over old despite all having the same qualifications.
We absorb stereotypes without realising. The Science of the Young Ones replicated an experiment by Professor Bagh, which revealed people who were exposed to ‘old’, words, such as ‘forgetful’ and ‘wise’, walked more slowly afterwards
Further research revealed that older people perform worse if they’re told the experiment is testing the theory that intellect declines with age.
Older people are vulnerable to the effects of absorbing these negative attitudes. A study by Yale University found that people who were positive about ageing lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those who were negative.
In a government report, Professor Abrams recommended that generations should be encouraged to mix thereby prompting the breakdown of stereotypes. The more aware we are of negative stereotypes, the more we can counteract them.
As The Young Ones celebrity volunteers discovered, refusing to accept the limits of ageing and associated negative attitudes, is life enhancing. Old age is an inevitability, so let’s be more positive about it!
The ‘Mindset of a Pilot’ experiment
A group of volunteers believe their performance on a flight simulator is being tested. More extraordinary than that is the real test which is to see whether the flight improves their eyesight. They take a sight test before and afterwards which show improvements. Professor Tom Troscianko explains his theory as to why this happens.