Ageism in Times of Population Aging. Rising Awareness and New Forms of Discrimination

Monday, July 14, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 40
Oral Presentation
Silke VAN DYK , Institute of Sociology, University of Jena, Jena, Germany
Age and aging have become highly popular issues in industrialized countries recently – namely in a twofold manner: Next to doom scenarios on population aging and increasing costs, older people have been discovered as active, productive and successful citizens, which is particularly true for the non-frail and healthy elderly. Each of the notions, no matter if it comes to activity, productivity or success, revolves around the idea that older people are capable of living a self-reliant life, being able to contribute productively to the public good, serving for themselves and others. Though often instrumental with regard to elderly’s resources in times of population aging, negative age-stereotypes are challenged in new ways: We establish a rising awareness towards discriminatory effects of age stereotypes as well as various political and academic endeavors to foster positive images of ageing and old age. However, this attempt turns out to be at least ambivalent when it comes to ageism: Since the rising awareness is mostly about the supposed “unjustified” negative stereotyping of capable “young retirees” and older workers, discriminatory images of aging are rather deferred to dependent and deep old age than fundamentally challenged. Moreover, the strong focus on achievement, productivity and success in old age generates new constraints for those who do not fulfill these criteria and who are indeed frail or demented and dependent on care. Against this backdrop it is the aim of the presentation to debate on whether and in how far the new appreciation of capable so-called “young-old” finally produces new age inequalities. Since awareness of ageism as age-based discrimination is much more advanced in liberal Anglo-Saxon countries than in continental Europe, the presentation opens up comparative insights to this ambivalent configuration from Germany and the US.