Older Canadian Men's Perceptions and Experiences of Ageism in Everyday Life

Monday, July 14, 2014: 4:00 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Laura HURD CLARKE , University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Alexandra KOROTCHENKO , University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada
In this paper, we consider the complex and often conflicting perceptions and experiences of ageism among older Canadian men. We draw on data from in-depth interviews with 29 men, aged 65-89 (average age of 74), who were diverse in terms of their incomes and levels of education while also being largely homogeneous with respect to their marital statuses and sexual orientation (the majority were married and heterosexual).

Our analysis of the data revealed three key findings: a) perceptions that ageism was irrelevant; b) identification of ageism as something that affected others; and c) internalized ageism. Many of the men asserted that ageism was not a factor that constrained or explained their everyday lives. For some, the irrelevance of ageism was because they perceived that the prevalence of age-based discrimination had declined over time. Others reported that they had simply never experienced ageism in their everyday interactions including encounters with strangers, health care providers, peers, or family members. However, the majority of the men also suggested that ageism was something experienced by others, primarily older women (who were perceived to be under intense pressure to look young) and institutionalized elders (who were perceived to be the most likely target of maltreatment, including neglect and abuse). At the same time, most of the men expressed internalized ageism either through the distancing of themselves from those they considered old (both a moral and chronological age category), the expression of preferences for young appearances or youthful personas, or the acceptance of negative stereotypes regarding later life (such as older adults as poor drivers, grumpy individuals in poor health, ‘dirty old men’, or persons unable to easily adapt to new technologies).

We discuss our findings in relation to the extant theorizing and research pertaining to ageism, masculinity, and age relations.