Tuesday 7 November 2023

Severely Impaired, Self-Centred, Elitist, John Wayne Conservative or Golden Ager? Negative and "Positive" Age Stereotypes

Hummert et al. (cited in Miller Leyell & Mazachek, 2002), using e.g. cluster analysis, found eight negative and six (rather) positive stereotypes of older people. Negative stereotypes are associated more with older old people, positive ones more with younger old people. The older the age, the more the associations become: mildly impaired, severely impaired, shrew/curmudgeon, despondent, recluse, vulnerable. The positive older person is not a burden but the supportive grandparent or volunteer. Older persons are more or less seen positively as long as they are productive and wealthy "golden agers". 

The eight negative stereotypes: 

1) despondent (afraid, bored, depressed, fragile, frustrated, hopeless, hypochondriac, lonely, neglected, sad, sick, tired, victimise, wary)
2) vulnerable (afraid, bored, emotionless, hypochondriac, miserly, sedentary, victimised, wary, worried)
3) severely impaired (dependent, feeble, forgetful, fragile, hopeless, inarticulate, incoherent, neglected, poor, rambling, sedentary, senile, sexless, sick, slowly thinking, tired, victimised)
4) shrew/curmudgeon (bitter, bored, complaining, demanding, frugal, greey, humourless, hypochondriac, ill-tempered, inflexible, jealous, nosy, prejudiced, selfish, snobbish, stubborn)
5) recluse (dependent, forgetful, frustrated, naive, poor, quiet, sedentary, timid, worried)
6) mildly impaired (dependent, forgetful, fragile, frustrated, poor, rambling, sedentary, sick, slowly moving, tired, victimised, worried)
7) self-centred (emotionless, greedy, humourless, inflexible, jealous, miserly, nosy, selfish, sexless, snobish, stubborn)
8) elitist (demanding, naive, prejudiced, snobbish, wary)

The six "positive" stereotypes: 

1) perfect grandparent (family-oriented, family-loving, generous, grateful, happy, healthy, intelligent, kind, knowledgeable, loving, self-accepting, supportive, trustworthy, understanding, wise)
2) golden ager (active, adventurous, alert, capable, courageous, curious, determined, fun-loving, future-oriented, happy, health conscious, healthy, independent, intelligent, interesting, knowledgeable, liberal, lively, political, productive, proud, sef-accepting, sexual, skilled, sociable, successful, volunteer, wealthy, well-informed, well-travelled, wise, witty)
3) John Wayne conservative (conservative, curious, determined, emotional, mellow, nostalgic, old-fashioned, patriotic, political, proud, religious, reminiscent, retired, tough, wealthy)
4) liberal matriarch/patriarch (frugal, liberal, mellow, old-fashioned, wealthy)
5) activist (frugal, liberal, mellow, old-fashioned, wealthy)
6) small-town neighbour (conservative, emotional, frugal, old-fashioned, quiet, tough)

- - - - - - - -

- Miller, D. W., Leyell, T. S. & Mazachek, J. (2002). Stereotypes of the Elderly in US Television Commercials From the 1950s to the 1990s. Journal of Advertising History, link
-  photograph by Leon Levinstein via


  1. Abbie Winterburn8 November 2023 at 14:08


    1. Even the so-called positive stereotypes do not really sound positive... Thanks for passing by, Abbie!