Michelle Gyenes is a second year Graduate Entry Medical student at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. Prior to beginning her career in medicine, Michelle earned her Master’s degree in public health from the sociomedical science program at Columbia University. It was here that she specialized in and found her passion for geriatric health, also serving as a United Nations Intern for AARP’s global ageing division.
After her first year at RCSI, Michelle was awarded a three-month scholarship at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada. As a Savlov Schmidt Scholar and researcher, she examined how geriatricians around the world assess and manage unintentional weight loss, and if they use creative approaches to combat this issue, including the recommendation of ice cream.
Michelle is a regular contributor to the Johns Hopkins medical humanities blog, “CLOSLER,” and is especially interested in the integration of creative thinking into clinical practice.
If age is just a state of mind: Can existing interventions effectively reduce age-related stereotypes in older adults?
Michelle Gyenes, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Ireland
With an increase in the global proportion of individuals over the age of 65, there is a simultaneous growing demand for the development of interventions aimed at improving health and quality of life in older age. A major factor shown to contribute to so-called “successful ageing” is positive self-perception of ageing, measured through a variety of health outcomes. Older adults are often subject to negative age-related stereotypes. Over time, these stereotypes become ingrained in one’s self-concept, and have been found to be related to adverse health outcomes, such as decreases in longevity and increased risk of cardiovascular events. Despite the increase in attention to the psychology of ageing, to date, the research body pertaining to how self-perceptions impact the physical and mental health of aging populations is limited. It is essential to address this gap promptly in order to promote health and quality of life for this group.
This review seeks to explore approaches to mitigating the effects of negative age-related stereotypes through the analysis of existing interventions for other populations typically subject to negative stereotype effects. A literature review and quantitative analyses were used to compare these interventions through the use of a mini-meta analysis. The evidence gathered from existing interventions was integrated into a new framework regarding negative stereotype effects on older populations to examine their feasibility, with the ultimate goal being to explore the possibility of developing new interventions to reduce the adverse effects of negative age-related stereotypes on the basis of this research.
This report reviewed 62 existing interventions that were designed to reduce stereotype effects in other populations through the promotion of: (1) self-affirmation, (2) positive attitudes, and (3) reducing intergroup biases in order to determine their potential applicability to older adults. Each experiment targeted one of the following three outcomes: (1) self-esteem, (2) task-specific performance, and (3) physical functioning.
No significant differences were found between these types of interventions, indicating that programs targeting multiple domains should be considered when designing interventions to counter the negative effects of age-related stereotypes in older adults. However, trends indicated that certain interventions were more effective than others depending on the outcome measured, therefore interventions should be specifically tailored to the outcome of interest to maximize efficacy.
Globally, older adults consistently face stigmatization: mitigating these stereotype threats that are disproportionately distributed among an already marginalized group has important implications in program, policy, and intervention development for this population.