This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism Analysis Paper;
This is an analysis paper utilizing Harris (2007) and Sociology, Psychology, and Political Science academic literature to critically analyze Chapter Two: “Our Ages, Ourselves: Identity” from Applewhite (2019). In my paper, I will first provide a summary of the chapter, followed by a literature review of my topics; Age Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, Age-Appropriate, and Age-fulness. Finally, I will utilize my academic literature to conduct an analysis of Applewhite’s Chapter Two “Our Ages, Ourselves: Identity”.
Summary of “Our Ages, Ourselves: Identity”
In this chapter, it discusses what is age, when and why is it important? It also will dig into how age is intertwined with identity, explore ideas and ideals about “aging successfully,” and suggest ways to connect with your future self. It explains that the concept of age identity refers to the inner experience of a person’s age and the aging process. When individuals are confronted with age-related changes such as the loss of paid employment and the onset of physical decline, they may strive to maintain their existing identity.
The academic literature that was found related to the self-fulfilling prophecies topic is from the psychology database. The separation of age groups can decrease contact between a younger and older person. Because of segregation, it separates members of groups. Age segregation may maintain stereotypes between generations by limiting opportunities for them to interact. The age-friendly movement could do more to support individuals and to build older people’s ability in later life. There has been very limited attention towards how ageism can disfigure older people inner worlds. “There is a significant and growing evidence base which shows how internalized ageist attitudes negatively affect how long people live; the incidence of illness and the ability to recover from it; functional abilities such as walking speed and activities of daily living; cognitive ability and memory performance; health-enhancing behaviors and the will to live; and finally, emotional wellbeing and mental health” (Robertson, 2017). This is an area worthy of a great amount of attention by the age-friendly movement and its academic supporters. Supporting older people to boost, strengthen, or build their elasticity should be an important agenda for the age-friendly movement. And most of the time the ability to recover quickly from difficulties is something that is primarily built from the “inside out”, rather than solely from the “outside-in”.
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Stereotypical images of aging are recalled and used as they were initially learned, and there is evidence to suggest that as a person ages these stereotypes may become a self-perception. “The long-term effects of these self-perceptions were demonstrated in a study based on data from the Ohio Longitudinal Study of Aging. Participants with more positive self-perceptions of aging at baseline had better functional health throughout the study and lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative self-perceptions of aging. These health advantages remained after adjusting for baseline functional health and other relevant variables” (Pagnini, 2018).
The academic literature that was found related to the age-appropriate topic is from the political science database. The concept of age identity refers to the inner experience of a person’s age and the aging process. As people age they begin to have self-limiting beliefs, meaning certain beliefs that constrain us in some way. Just by believing them, we do not think, do or say the things that they inhibit. “As we ascend the ladder of wisdom and maturity, we are cautioned to adopt restraint, to be “classic” and “sophisticated”. And with every passing year, to occupy less space and be more demure — and dull. A fashion guru advised women: “The worst thing you can do is to dress younger than you are.” (Baird, 2016).
The academic literature that was found related to the age-fulness topic is from the sociology database. When individuals are confronted with age-related changes such as the loss of employment and the onset of health and physical decline, they may strive to maintain their existing identity in today’s society. “The associations were in the direction expected, e.g. better health and functioning, lack of psychological morbidity and positive feelings about aging associated with feeling younger than one’s age. The effects of physical health status and functioning, and mental health, including perceptions of aging, on self-perceived age.” “This showed that baseline physical health and functional status, and reported changes in these, explained 20.4 percent of the variance in self-perceived age ratings. Adding baseline psychological morbidity, feelings and fears about aging explained a further 0.8 percent of the variance, making the total variance explained 21.2 percent. The implication is that good health and functioning were the principal predictors of feeling younger than one’s years, followed by a lack of psychological morbidity and positive attitudes towards aging” (Bowling, 2005).
In other words, what Bowling is explaining is self-continuity. Self-continuity is when one desire and/or motivation to remain the same over time. Also self-enhancement, self-enhancement is the motive to maintain or increase a positive view of oneself. Youthful identities are a way to satisfy this desire in a culture that associates aging with downturn. Also associates youth with robustness and physical appearance, reflecting a widespread of negative cultural views of old age in the American society.
When it comes to Applewhite with self-fulfilling prophecies Robertson and Pagnini all agree and kind of have the same concept. Applewhite states that “Unless we confront these expectations of impairment and insignificance, they build up over the decades, making older adults themselves the worst ageists of all.” “Over time, as age-related stereotypes grow more relevant, people tend to act as though they were accurate, creating self-fulfilling prophecies” (Applewhite 2016).
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Robertson age-friendly movement is similar to Applewhite old person in training. Robertson compares self-fulfilling prophecies with health. “There is a significant and growing evidence base which shows how internalized ageist attitudes negatively affect how long people live; the incidence of illness and the ability to recover from it; functional abilities such as walking speed and activities of daily living; cognitive ability and memory performance; health-enhancing behaviors and the will to live; and finally, emotional wellbeing and mental health” (Robertson, 2017).
Pagnini study adds on to Robertson evidence on ageist attitudes. “Participants with more positive self-perceptions of aging at baseline had better functional health throughout the study and lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative self-perceptions of aging” (Pagnini, 2018). Applewhite sums everything up with “The more time goes by, the more damage clinging to youth does to our sense of self and our place in the world”
When analyzing Applewhite and Baird on age-appropriate they share the same towards it. They feel that there’s no such thing as age-appropriate. “Chronological age is an increasingly unreliable benchmark of pretty much anything about a person”(Applewhite 2016). What she means by this is that age tells what one should look like, dress like, and listen to. Baird explains how women are chided that are over the age of forty who wear tank tops, low-rise jeans, platform heels, bangles, and big earrings. “And with every passing year, to occupy less space and be more demure — and dull” (Baird, 2016). Saying once people become older that have to dress a certain way. “Acutely aware of how much has changed, we also feel the same. That’s why so many people maintain, “I’m still a kid inside.” (Applewhite 2016). Applewhite and Baird think, just because aging is happening doesn’t mean the individual personality and style has to change.
Bowling and Applewhite focus on the negative attitudes towards aging and how it is best that negativity should cease. “Line up a random bunch of seventy-year-olds and it’ll be hard to believe they share a birth year. Since we age at very different rates, it makes a certain sense to reject identifying with our chronological age” (Applewhite, 2016). What Applewhite means by that is age is only a number. Bowling states that good health and positive attitudes make one feel younger. “ You’re never too old to feel young” but showed that “the older people get the younger they feel — relatively speaking” (Applewhite, 2016). The older a person gets on the inside they still feel the same as they did years ago. When Applewhite talks about age fulness, “There’s no norm, no average way of aging, as would be abundantly clear if age denial — aka “agelessness” — weren’t fundamental” (Applewhite, 2016). If aging weren’t fundamental so many people would not turn a natural process into such a stigmatized thing.
When discussing Age-fulness, Age-Appropriate, and self-fulfilling prophecies sociologist and psychologist agrees with Applewhite. In the second chapter it discusses what is age, when and why is it important? It also will dig into how age is intertwined with identity, explore ideas and ideals about aging successfully, and suggest ways to connect with your future self. Stereotypes are generalized because one assumes that the stereotype is true for each person in the category. Self-fulfilling prophecy occurs when a person’s expectation of an event affects their behavior and therefore makes the predicted outcome more likely to occur than would have otherwise been true. There are two types of prophecies, self-imposed prophecies, and other-imposed prophecies. Self-imposed prophecies only occur when your own expectations influence your behavior. Other-imposed prophecies occur when one person’s expectations control another’s actions. Internalized ageism appears to negatively affect older people’s health and wellbeing. It can be through two psychological mechanisms, self-limiting beliefs, and self-fulfilling prophecies.
While the age-friendly movement is rightly committed to challenging the prevalent negative narrative about aging, it is also important to recognize and validate the fact that later life can also be characterized by significant life events and challenges, all of which can trigger the elderly into anxiety, depression, and loneliness. Age has shifted, now adult milestones are done later. Researchers have argued that motives such as self-continuity and self-enhancement may shape age identity. Usually, you have to hide your chronological age to be able to do certain things without limitations or others looking at you weird for wearing a tank top. Applewhite and several others want to stop that from happening by creating age-friendly movements or becoming an old person in training.
- Applewhite, A. (2016). This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism.
- Baird, J. (2016, October 21). Don’t Dress Your Age. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/23/opinion/sunday/dont-dress-your-age.html
- Bowling, A. (2005). Attributes of age-identity. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.troy.edu/sociology/docview/195638387/E6BD66405E714F5EPQ/2?accountid=38769
- Pagnini, F. (2019). Ageing as a mindset: A study protocol to rejuvenate older adults with a counterclockwise psychological intervention. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.troy.edu/psychology/docview/2254497663/B65DEDAB3F1743A0PQ/1?accountid=38769
- Robertson, G. (2018). Age friendly approaches – the missing link. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.troy.edu/psychology/docview/2013643569/2552F0ED984145E4PQ/1?accountid=38769
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