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VCU School of Pharmacy faculty, alumni and students have provided the Dr. Rx column for Richmond’s Fifty Plus magazine since December 2009.  We now share those columns on the SOP website, as well, for those who might not have seen the most recent issue.

Serving as Dr. Rx for June 2016 was Meredith Crumb, who received her Pharm.D. degree and Certificate in Aging Studies in May. This summer, she begins a residency with the Veterans Affairs Tennessee Valley Healthcare System in Nashville. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia.


Q. I feel as though we Boomers are aging pretty well … eating better, exercising more, taking fewer medications … but still we hear so much about age-related bias. Any advice?

A. Ageism is the practice of stereotyping and discriminating based on age, most commonly against older adults and the aging process. This term was coined by Robert Butler, a geriatrician, who recognized age stereotyping as an issue as early as 1968.

Age stereotypes represent widely shared beliefs about the defining characteristics of groups of individuals based simply on how old they are.  While the most commonly recognized form of age stereotype is that of older adults, age stereotypes exist for any age group. Teens, for example, may be stereotyped as immature or reckless, while the elderly might be considered slow or out of touch.

As you progress through life, you integrate your own experiences of aging into personal stereotypes. The social category of “older person” encompasses multiple stereotypes.

Stereotypes can be positive or negative. Unfortunately, the number of negative stereotypes tend to exceed the positive. Age stereotypes can range from beliefs about physical characteristics and personality traits to social status and behavioral tendencies.  While these  stereotypes are based in shared beliefs, they can vary because of different personal experiences and development.

Self-stereotyping occurs when you identify with a group – such as an age group – to the point that you unconsciously take on behaviors associated with stereotypes of that group. For example, whether you are an older person or a younger person, claiming to have a “senior moment” when forgetting something perpetuates one of the negative stereotypes associated with aging. Often we are simply distracted and are not giving our full attention to the task at hand; there’s no need to blame a stereotypical characteristic to explain the inability to recall information.

 Studies have found that self-perceptions about aging can have long-term effects on health. This means that people who hold negative views of aging may experience more significant declines in their own health, over time, than those who hold positive beliefs about aging.

So start changing your negative self-stereotyping, embrace your individuality and focus on the positive aspects of aging. Stereotypes don’t have to bring you down!

Media and marketers often exploit age stereotypes, perpetuating ageism. Marketing messages can induce fear in younger populations about the aging process with the goal of persuading them to buy into “anti-aging” products and procedures.

There is some good news: While American culture tends to emphasize negative stereotypes regarding the aging process, there is evidence that the amount of age bias is actually decreasing.  Since individual experiences and perspectives influence stereotyping, we can help fight age stereotypes and ageism by examining and challenging our own biases.

Pay attention and challenge the messages that society sends about the aging process. Does a particular stereotype align with your experience of the aging process?  Share your experiences with others, and start the conversation to combat ageism.



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