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      Stereotypes about very old people and perceived societal appreciation in very old age Translated title: Stereotype über hochaltrige Menschen und empfundene gesellschaftliche Wertschätzung in der Hochaltrigkeit


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          People in very old age (VOA) are expected to be confronted with particularly negative stereotypes. These influence societally shared behavior towards and judgements about them. Such external evaluations of individuals’ lives are considered a crucial part of their quality of life (QoL).


          The present study elaborated a) the societal appreciation perceived by people in VOA and b) the stereotypes about people in VOA held by stakeholders from key societal areas. The aim was to discuss possible connections between these external standards and individual life results.

          Material and methods

          A parallel mixed methods design was employed. Cross-sectional data from a representative survey of people aged 80 years and older ( n = 1863) were analyzed by means of χ 2-tests and Kruskal-Wallis tests to examine differences in perceived societal appreciation (PSA) by characteristics of the person, their biography, and current lifestyle. Linear regression models were used to investigate the impact of these characteristics on PSA. Regarding stereotypes about people in VOA, semi-structured interviews with stakeholders from key societal areas ( n = 22) were analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The quantitative and qualitative findings were juxtaposed for comparison.


          PSA was predicted by health-related variables and productive activities. Several societal stakeholders highlighted that age-related losses pose challenges on very old individuals, their families, and society, whereas remaining potentials in VOA can and should be used for the benefit of others; however, stakeholders‘ perceptions differed by the extent of their professional contact with (very) old people. Different pathways were proposed through which the observed stereotypes and determinants of PSA might be connected (e.g., stereotype internalization).


          Our study illustrates the relevance of external standards for individual QoL and highlights the need for a normative perspective in the discussion about QoL and its enhancement.

          Supplementary Information

          The online version of this article (10.1007/s00391-021-01971-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users. The article and the supplementary material are available in the electronic full-text archive at https://www.springermedizin.de/zeitschrift-fuer-gerontologie-und-geriatrie. You will find the supplementary material at the end of the article.

          Translated abstract


          Stereotype über hochaltrige Menschen gelten als besonders negativ. Sie beeinflussen das gesellschaftlich geteilte Verhalten Hochaltrigen (HA) gegenüber und Urteile über diese. Solche externen Bewertungen stellen einen wichtigen Teil individueller Lebensqualität dar.

          Ziele der Arbeit

          Die Studie untersuchte a) die von HA empfundene gesellschaftliche Wertschätzung (EGW) und b) die Stereotype über HA von Vertretern zentraler Gesellschaftsbereiche. Ziel war es, mögliche Verbindungen zwischen diesen externalen Standards und individuellen Lebensqualitätsresultaten (LQR) zu diskutieren.

          Material und Methoden

          Es wurde ein paralleler Mixed-Methods-Ansatz verfolgt. Querschnittsdaten einer repräsentativen Befragung von Menschen ab 80 Jahren ( n = 1863) wurden Chi 2- und Kruskal-Wallis-Tests unterzogen, um Unterschiede in EGW nach Merkmalen der Person, ihrer Biographie und ihres aktuellen Lebensstils zu analysieren. Der Einfluss dieser Merkmale auf EGW wurde mit linearen Regressionsmodellen abgeschätzt. Semistrukturierte Interviews mit Stakeholdern zentraler Gesellschaftsbereiche ( n = 22) wurden mittels qualitativer Inhaltsanalyse hinsichtlich zum Ausdruck kommender Stereotype über HA untersucht. Die quantitativen und qualitativen Ergebnisse wurden einander gegenübergestellt.


          EGW konnte durch gesundheitsbezogene Variablen und produktive Aktivitäten vorhergesagt werden. Einige der Stakeholder betonten, dass einerseits altersbedingte Verluste hochaltrige Menschen, deren Familien sowie die Gesellschaft vor Herausforderungen stellen, und andererseits verbleibende Potenziale im Alter zugunsten anderer eingesetzt werden können und sollen. Die Ansichten der Stakeholder unterschieden sich jedoch nach dem Ausmaß ihres beruflichen Kontakts zu (sehr) alten Menschen. Es wurden Wege vorgeschlagen, über die die beobachteten Stereotype und Determinanten von EGW miteinander verbunden sein können (z. B. Internalisierung von Stereotypen).


          Die Studie verdeutlicht die Relevanz externaler Standards für individuelle LQ und betont die Notwendigkeit einer normativen Perspektive in der Diskussion um LQ und deren Förderung.

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          Most cited references52

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                Author and article information

                Z Gerontol Geriatr
                Z Gerontol Geriatr
                Zeitschrift Fur Gerontologie Und Geriatrie
                Springer Medizin (Heidelberg )
                1 October 2021
                1 October 2021
                : 54
                : Suppl 2
                : 93-100
                [1 ]GRID grid.6190.e, ISNI 0000 0000 8580 3777, Cologne Center for Ethics, Rights, Economics, and Social Sciences of Health, , University of Cologne, ; Albertus Magnus Platz, 50923 Cologne, Germany
                [2 ]GRID grid.6190.e, ISNI 0000 0000 8580 3777, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne, , University of Cologne, ; Cologne, Germany
                [3 ]GRID grid.411097.a, ISNI 0000 0000 8852 305X, Research Unit Ethics, Medical Faculty, , University Hospital Cologne, ; Cologne, Germany
                © The Author(s) 2021

                Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

                : 15 March 2021
                : 30 August 2021
                Funded by: Universitätsklinikum Köln (8977)
                Original Contributions
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                © Springer Medizin Verlag GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2021

                stereotypes,very old,society,quality of life,mixed methods,stereotype,hochaltrigkeit,gesellschaft,lebensqualität,mixed-methods


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