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Black people more likely to be positive about old age

PERCEPTIONS: Cultural and ethnic backgrounds affect how people view ageing

PEOPLE FROM black ethnic backgrounds are three times more likely to be positive about older age, a study released today has found.

The report published by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in partnership with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation evaluated ageist attitudes across 12 main areas of life, finding that the public are most ageist about memory loss, appearance, and participation in activities (both physical and community).

The researchers also discovered that cultural and ethnic backgrounds play a significant role in shaping our perceptions of older people: among people from a black ethnic background, attitudes to ageing are nearly three times more positive than the average.

The report evaluated the extent of ageist attitudes across the UK, and how they harm the health and wellbeing of everyone in society as we grow older. The findings highlight that old age is viewed by many as a period of decline and ordeal, and calls on stakeholders in the media, government, voluntary sector, and schools to take action to reframe the way our nation views ageing in a more positive light.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, said: “With more people reaching older age than ever before, it is crucial to act now to promote positive integration across the generations. It is indeed encouraging that the majority of the public still believes that, fundamentally, the old and young have more in common than divides them.”

According the report, ageist views are held across generations but are most prevalent among 18-34 year olds, almost a third of the public believe “being lonely is just something that happens when people get old”, a quarter of 18-34 year olds believe it is “normal” for older people to be unhappy and depressed and two in five 18-24 year olds believe there is no way to escape dementia as you age.

RSPH is calling for action to tackle intergenerational isolation, end the stigmatisation of older people, and undo the media clichés that keep ageism alive and well.

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