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Ableism and Ageism
Socialhögskolan, Lunds universitet, Lund, Sweden.
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Social Work. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2019 (English)In: Encyclopedia of Gerontology and Population Aging / [ed] Danan Gu & Matthew E. Dupre, Cham: Springer, 2019, p. 1-6Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Since Robert N. Butler (1969) introduced the term ageism to research, a number of attempts to define and conceptualize the phenomenon have been proposed (Iversen et al. 2009). Most have followed Butler in defining ageism as prejudice and discrimination based on age, with older people as the victimized category (See “Self reported ageism”). Some definitions describe ageism as affecting people of all ages, and in fact, investigations show that younger people are most affected by negative treatment that they ascribe to their age (Bratt et al. 2018). The definitional ambiguity has resulted in confusion on the causes of ageism; it is likely that different types of dynamics are present for persons of different ages. The present text will focus on ageism – and ableism – as a problem for older people.

The concept of ageism has been used to cover a wide range of phenomena, from skewed knowledge and intolerant values to attitudes and behaviors toward older people. Ageism has been described as the “denial of basic and civil rights of elders” and has been qualified as an ideology (Estes 2011, p. 300). Commonly age discrimination has been described as the manifestation of ageist attitudes and prejudice, specified as hostile forms of discrimination (e.g., neglect or mistreatment), but also in more compassionate, subtle ways (e.g., patronizing and “elder speech”), and even positive discrimination (Cary et al. 2017; Chonody 2016; Palmore 2015). This line of thought is pursued through the use of the attitude concept that is divided into a cognitive, an affective, and a behavioral component (Iversen et al. 2009): discrimination is the behavioral manifestation of individual or societal attitudes on age. Within the constantly growing field of research on ageism (Levy and Macdonald 2016), much interest has been devoted to different arenas where ageism appears (e.g., Ayalon and Tesch-Roemer 2018) and texts and tools for discovering and combating ageism have been provided (e.g., Palmore 1990, 2015; Levy 2016).

Less frequent and elaborated in gerontological literature is the concept of ableism. Ableism could be defined as the devaluation and discrimination of people based on perceived functional inability. The phenomenon has been devoted explicit interest in disability studies (e.g., Goodley 2014; Burch and Sirotkin 2018). According to Renee Butts (2017), in the Salem Press Encyclopedia, the concept was probably coined in the 1980s and refers to the discrimination of people with disabilities, conveying that they are of lesser value than the “able-bodied.” This definition is useful when identifying discrimination of persons with disabilities but as it rests on the dichotomy able-bodied – disabled – it downplays the fact that ableism has its roots in a greater societal order. Simply put, the logical counterpart to devaluation based on functional inability is the valuing of people based on ability, a principle that people in general tend to support in many situations (the system of education, the labor market, sports, and so on).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cham: Springer, 2019. p. 1-6
National Category
Gerontology, specialising in Medical and Health Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-158899DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-69892-2_581-1ISBN: 9783319698922 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-158899DiVA, id: diva2:1337773
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and WelfareAvailable from: 2019-07-17 Created: 2019-07-17 Last updated: 2019-08-29Bibliographically approved

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Jönson, HåkanTaghizadeh Larsson, Annika

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