Are Older Adults as Boring as We Perceive? By Mimi Mijiddorj

When you think of older adults, what kind of pictures or thoughts come into your mind? Do you think of them as cute, old, wise, or maybe even boring?  Many of us perceive aging as mostly negative: this is also known as implicit stereotyping, when there is an automatically activated negative stereotypes to topics, such as aging (Burzynska, 2017).  We commonly think of the winkles, the hearing loss, the poor eye sight and memory loss etc.  When we perceive aging in such a negative way, we forget/ or do not think about the aspects that older people still contain.  There are many different stereotypes that are placed on older adults.  Stereotypes are defined as knowledge structure or social belief that is understood to represent certain groups based on their previous knowledge and this previous knowledge about the group will affect the way we interpret new information about the group and even make decisions (Burzynska, 2017).  One common stereotype of older adults is that they are boring.  They are old so they cannot/ do not have any more fun.  Within this paper, there will be four different of texts being further analyzed to determine if older adults are actually boring or not.

Based on Burling’s (2015) article, it reveals that aging is a concept that many of us do not understand very well, and when people get older there is a lack of ambition that might lead to the older adults being “boring”.  Within the article, an older adult Thomas is interviewed and gets to express his feelings toward being older.  He broke down older adults into two different chapters. The first one was the young old that included ages 60 to 80, and then the old old (Burling, 2015).  Thomas mentioned that we celebrate when older adults act young, but what we really need to do is understand aging (Burling, 2015).  After the age of 60 there is a decline for tremendous potential for growth, Thomas himself stated that he used to feel a “burning sense of ambition” but now he does not feel that ambition constantly burning and that for him, feels actually better (Burling, 2015).  This article, confirms that while older adults might lose their “burning sense of ambition” that might make them more boring, some of them tend to okay with this.  They have lived their life, and accept that when they are older, they can live their life steadier.

Then the second article, written by Nash (2016) illustrates how Great Britain is in the mists of establishing the first U3A that will encourage older adults to continuously learn.  The baby boomer generation is the smartest, healthiest, long living older adults in history (Burzynska, 2017).  The baby boomers have created a more cube shape to our age pyramid demographics and they keep on changing the way older are now perceived.  The article talks about how the baby boomer’s generation is willing to set new challenges for themselves and are eager to go back and learn even more (Nash 2016).  This goes to show that even if you are old, it does not mean you need to or have to stop cleaning. There are endless amounts to learn and the baby boomer generation acknowledge that and are eager to keep on learning. Now having an institution specifically for older adults to go learn, will increase the number of older adults wanting to go learn. If older adults had thoughts about going back to school, they might have hesitated before because of the stereotype threat that older people know what they know and cannot learn anymore. But this article is a great example of how older adults are not boring and are eager to learn more and more.

Then in another article by Law (2007) it talks about how architects are looking for ways to make senior housing more pleasing and fun to live in.  It talks about how senior housing is too dull and how they are looking forward to jazzing up more and more senior housing. When older adults go to senior houses, most of them are very plain but now there are architects that want to change this. They want to create a living space where the older adults can still have fun and be entertained. The architects understand that when they get older and older it is harder to go out to take the time to go out to special places. So why not create fun, exciting places to be within the senior house itself?  It is a great idea that is really getting the older adults excited. Senior housing is usually perceived as a depressing place to go and visit or to even live in. Now when making changes to the building, it creates an environment that lets others not think of the senior house as such a dull place to go. Also making the building more pleasing and fun will allow for family members to even visit more often. Older adults love spending time with their loved ones and when their family comes to visit, it is often the highlight of their day.  So in Law’s (2007) article supports the claim that older adults are not as boring as we perceive, and architects want to help break this kind of stereotype by making their living environment more exciting.

Another article that contradicts the stereotype of older adults being boring, is an article written in the Irish Times (2010).  This article goes to explain how older adults are playing Wii and how this is ultimately able to help their health (Irish Times, 2010). Wii is a game where you have the controller in your hand and you play it on a TV screen.  Yes.  Older adults use technology as well, and can learn how to play video games as well.  Playing Wii is a different type of video game though.  It is one where you are mobile and have to move.  There are all sorts of games that can be played on the Wii, including many sports such as tennis, basketball, dance, and ping pong etc. It is endless in the variety of games you can play, and older adults really enjoy playing Wii.  It will get their heart rate pumping and give them physical exercise. Older adults who play more often showed to have less mobility problems (Irish Times, 2010). The Wii controller will have the players mimic actions like they are actually playing the sport itself. It is a fun and easy way to get older adults to move around because they really enjoy playing with one another. This article is like the others stated above, it contradicts the stereotype of older adults being boring, by explaining how they love to play Wii, and it also talks about all the great impacts playing Wii has on the older adults as well.

Throughout this paper, there were four different articles that had different examples of older adults breaking or conforming to the stereotype that older adults are boring.  Overall, many of the articles presented above, illustrate that older adults are not boring, and still like to life their life to the fullest.  In Burling’s (2015) article, it did present an example of an older adult, who is okay with not having ambition as he once used to.  This goes to show that even when you do get older, older adults are okay with living a simple lifestyle.  People might choose to call this lifestyle boring but it chosen by the older adult themselves.  The other three articles examined showed the way in which older adults are living and wanting to live their life.  It explains how they are still active, they are still eager to learn new things.  When people get older, the ability to learn does not stop growing. It is an aspect of life that anyone, any age can hang on to.  Then making senior housing a more welcoming place to be is another plan to help people stop thinking about aging so negatively.  It will also help not spread the stereotype that older people are boring, solely because most senior homes that they live in looks boring.  Then another example of how the stereotype is not true that the article explaining how older adults love to play Wii. This certain stereotype is very biased, but can be concluded to not be true based on the articles above.

References

Burzynska, A., (2017) Lecture Notes Week 1. Powerpoint.

Law, V. (2007). Architects jazz up public senior housing. Architectural Record, 195(5), 54.

Nash, I. (2016). Baby boomers in the shires set a new challenge to more than double levels of participation in lifelong learning. Education Journal, (289), 26-27.

One article Burling, S. (2015, April 19). A disruptive new vision of old age. Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA).

(2010, October 5). Wii proves a hit with elderly patients. Irish Times.

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