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Old news shows ageism starting young

AGEISM is appearing in children as young as three, a new study shows.

Australian psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg fears society's portrayal of the elderly as doddering and objects of derision is contributing to the rise in stereotypical prejudice within the young.

A study, from the University of Liège in Belgium, published today in the journal Child Development, highlights that children who spend the most quality time with grandparents have a healthier attitude to older generations. It was found that ageism generally decreases between ages 10 and 11. The researchers examined 1151 children and adolescents.

Barbara and Derek Utley enjoy a day out at New Farm Park with grandchildren Ethan, 8, and Neve Cummins, 6. Picture: Lachie Millard
Barbara and Derek Utley enjoy a day out at New Farm Park with grandchildren Ethan, 8, and Neve Cummins, 6. Picture: Lachie Millard

"We asked children to describe how they felt about seeing their grandparents. Those who felt unhappy were designated as having poor quality of contact. When it came to ageist views, we found that quality of contact mattered much more than frequency," said Allison Flamion, a PhD student in psychology, who led the research team.

Children used words such as ugly, dirty, cruel, dull and slow to describe the elderly.

"Kids need as many charismatic adults in their lives as possible. It boosts confidence and it builds their resilience. Unfortunately, resilience is something that is on the decline. The results of this study sadden me as a psychologist," Dr Carr-Gregg said.

"As we become an ageing population, it is vital that young people are educated in the value of having grandparents or older people in their lives. Their experience and wisdom is invaluable," he said.

For many children, grandparents are their first and most frequent contact with older adults.

Grandparents Derek and Barbara Utley said it was important to spend time with their grandkids outside of the house to build on their relationship.

"It's good to get out of the house and be active with the kids," Mrs Utley said.

"It keeps us busy and gets us some fresh air. We see a lot of grandparents out and about with their grandkids. We don't get to see them so much anymore so we make the most of it when we do."

Topics:  ageism children study



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