ERIC Number: ED244192
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983-Nov
Reference Count: 0
Aspects of the Aging Stigma.
Luken, Paul C.
Although social gerontologists recognize the heterogeneous nature of elderly populations, they have relied on the use of aggregate data and chronological age rather than sociological variables in their research. The notion of stigma, as developed by Goffman (1963), applied to the elderly focuses on social relationships rather than individual attributes, and can assist in understanding the social meaning of old age in contemporary American society. Social stigma is a discrepancy between virtual and actual social identity; an individual attribute, in this case age, can be stigmatizing when it fails to conform to age-related norms. Once a stigma exists, socially legitimated discrimination results. Social stigma for the elderly has resulted in a classless view of aging which ignores the differences across sex, and ethnic and class boundaries. It also allows for the use of derogatory terms for old people. In defense against the stigma, elderly individuals tend to deny their old age through physical disguises, the attainment of active mastery in areas traditionally closed to elders, avoidance of social interactions with other age groups, or self-other identification. Because they become stigmatized in later life, the elderly may have difficulty in re-identifying themselves and may experience a special likelihood of self-disapproval. To overcome the stigma, elderly individuals must face their chronological age and refine the meaning of old age for themselves. (BL)
Descriptors: Age Discrimination, Aging (Individuals), Attribution Theory, Gerontology, Labeling (of Persons), Negative Attitudes, Older Adults, Social Behavior, Social Bias, Stereotypes
Center on Aging Studies, University of Missouri, Kansas City Institute, 2220 Holmes St., Kansas City, MO 64108.
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Social Stigma
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Gerontological Society (36th, San Francisco, CA, November 17-22, 1983).