Turning old into gold – The News International

Posted: September 2, 2020 at 1:53 am


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Gold, lustrous and precious, has provided a metaphor for the years after retirement described as the golden years however, in contemporary times this notion of a valued old age seems more and more archaic.

With each passing year, growing old is becoming less of a joy and more of a concern. What alchemy is needed to transmute old into gold again? The formula in one word is: attitude. Attitudes underpin actions and negative attitudes towards ageing and older adults hinder the social, economic and political impetus to improve the quality of life of older people.

The ageing population is a reality that should not be overlooked. With improvements in healthcare and standards of living, the average life expectancy has been increasing. According to the 2019 UN World Population Prospects report, in 1950 life expectancy was around 47 years and by 2019 this number had increased to around 70 years. As people live longer, the total number of people in their advanced years is also increasing and in 1950 the percentage of global population that was 65 years and over was around five percent and by 2019 this number had almost doubled. In Pakistan, while the percentage of population in the 65 years and over age bracket is lower than the global average; still, the total numbers of people in this age bracket has grown from around two million in 1950, to close to ten million at the present time.

The graying of the global population necessitates new policies, however, preceding the change in policies is the need for a change in attitudes. The attitudes towards the aged in society provides a foundation on which actions towards health and wellbeing are constituted, workplace environments are fashioned, institutions are designed, legislation is passed, and policies are formulated. Unfair or negative views about ageing and about the aged can lead to older adults being unfairly disadvantaged. These negative views can coalesce into negative stereotypes or unfavorable expectations and beliefs about older adults.

Stereotyping is a form of cognitive categorization that helps individuals navigate through the complexities of life. Widely held stereotypes, regardless of whether they are true or not, influence perception, thinking and interactions. Sometimes the negative views can be subtle, implicit or seemingly innocuous; nonetheless, their manifestations can be quite impactful. Though there may be some elements of truth in a certain stereotype, the unfairness comes into play when the stereotype is unquestioningly and readily applied with a broad brush to all members of a group.

The stereotype with regards to older adults can include views about skills, ability, competence, sincerity, trustworthiness, etc. Examples of negative stereotypes faced by the aged could be the view that they are uninterested in the new digital technology and, therefore, are unable to learn how to use social media applications, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.

In many cases the negative stereotypes of older adults unfairly questions their physical and mental ability and their general competence. Such negative stereotypical categorization of older adults, especially with regard to their skills and competence, can have serious consequences in the workplace. Negative stereotyping can also be of consequence in interactions with professionals, such as in the medical, legal, and financial fields, and also in interactions across other spheres of society.

Negative stereotypes can sometimes be so widespread that, in addition to the non-older adults, they can even colour the beliefs of older adults themselves.

To address negative stereotypes, there is a need to begin with an awareness of the existence of stereotyping and to understand how it can be unfair. Institutional processes and policies of the government need to be reviewed to see if they are reinforcing an unfair and negative stereotype against older adults. The media can be an important source for perpetuating a negative stereotype; more importantly, the media can be a powerful source of correcting an unfair and negative stereotype.

As increasing numbers of people live to old age, there is a need to realize that unfair stereotyping of the ageing and the aged can significantly contribute to diminishing the luster and value of the golden years for the older population.

The writer heads a university-basedpolicy centre in Islamabad.

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Turning old into gold - The News International

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September 2nd, 2020 at 1:53 am

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