Stereotypes about the elderly: representations from an Italian sample  [presentation, ppt, 301 kB]

Deponte A., Vetere A.
First author's affiliation: University of Trieste, Trieste, Italy

Elderly people are usually considered a target for stereotyping and discrimination. Recent development in medicine, ways of life and society caused evident changes in the process of aging and new representations of elderly emerged, for example in media and advertising. Is the stereotype of the old person as frail, poor, alone and slow still resistant? Are the “new elderly” converting the social representations about old people in more adequate, more positive, less stereotyped ones? A sample of 569 Italians, from 18 to 79-years-old, were asked to mark in an adjective list the labels that “describe the typical old man/old woman”. Data were analysed separately for the sex of the target, by the mean of hierarchical cluster analysis. Results indicate a variety of social representations, both positive and negative. Therefore, it should be that the elderly are perceived in a more flexible and enriched way. However, this optimistic conclusion has to face the fact that negative representations are prevailing, especially for old men. Furthermore, it has to be proved that the more positive views are not stereotyping, are not simply a more acceptable way to keep elderly people at a distance.