To combat ageism at large and age discrimination in the workplace, some myths about older people must be dispelled. 74-year-old Erdman Palmore, professor emeritus at Duke University, has spent a lifetime studying aging and fighting ageism, and he is still at it.
"What makes me mad is how aging, in our language and culture, is equated with deterioration and impairment," he said. "I don't know how we're going to root that out, except by making people more aware of it."
- The Detroit News, 5 September 2004
In 1976, Professor Palmore developed a quiz to help people realize some of their prejudices about older people. Twenty-eight years later we still need this quiz. So embedded in our culture are the beliefs it tests, even older folks get some wrong.
In preparation for an ongoing discussion of age discrimination here, let’s all take Professor Palmore’s quiz. Keep in mind that people age at widely varying rates, and the quiz applies to older people in general. The statements are taken from Palmore's book, The Facts on Aging Quiz.
Here goes. Answer True or False for each statement.
- The majority of old people – age 65-plus – are senile.
- The five senses (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) all tend to weaken in old age.
- The majority of old people have no interest in, nor capacity for, sexual relations.
- Lung vital capacity tends to decline with old age.
- The Majority of old people feel miserable most of the time.
- Physical strength tends to decline with age.
- At least one-tenth of the aged are living in long-stay institutions such as nursing homes, mental hospital and homes for the aged.
- Aged drivers have fewer accidents per driver than those under age 65.
- Older workers usually cannot work as effectively as younger workers.
- More than three-fourths of the aged are healthy enough to do their normal activities without help.
- The majority of old people are unable to adapt to change.
- Older people usually take longer to learn something new.
- Depression is more frequent among the elderly than among younger people.
- Older people tend to react slower than younger people.
- In general, old people tend to be pretty much alike.
- The majority of old people say they are seldom bored.
- The majority of older people are socially isolated.
- Older workers have fewer accidents than younger workers.
- More than 20 percent of the population is now 65 and older.
- The majority of medical practitioners tend to give low priority to the aged.
- The majority of old people have incomes below the poverty line, as defined by the U.S. federal government.
- The majority of old people are working or would like to have some kind of work to do, including housework and volunteer work.
- Old people tend to become more religious as they age.
- The majority of old people say they are seldom irritated or angry.
- The health and economic status of old people will be about the same or worse in the year 2010, compared with younger people.
Answers: All odd-numbered statements are False. All even-numbered statements are True.
How well did you do? It is worth reading these explanations for each statement.
We can all help battle ageism. When someone repeats a myth in your presence, set them straight. When you read a misconception in a newspaper or magazine, or hear one on television or radio, let them know you object. It's easy to do with email - all media have an online presence. And while you're at it, challenge them to take this quiz. Send them this permalink.