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Individual Perceptions of Older Adults

Kristy J Carlson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The population of older adults continues to increase as the Baby Boomers age. Although a large number of individuals are now considered "old," common perceptions of this group have remained negative. A lack of accurate information regarding the physical and emotional changes is associated with shared social stereotypes that may be detrimental to older people. These social stereotypes are embedded in culture and influence individuals and group interaction. Researchers interested in measuring this phenomenon have used a number of instruments; however, one psychometrically-sound method has not emerged as the industry standard. In addition to a lack of attention paid to validity and reliability, researchers have ignored the importance of the strength of stereotypes related to aging. The purpose of this study was to examine the psychometric properties of two scales measuring individual perceptions of older adults, assess differences between two scales, and develop a factor structure based on 117 descriptors associated with older adults. The results of an Exploratory Factor Analysis for the 5-point and 11-point scale instruments produced slightly different factor structures with three latent constructs: Positive Stereotypes, Negative Stereotypes, and Physical Stereotypes. The data sets from each scale were assessed to determine if they could be combined to conduct further statistical analysis. A t-test revealed significant mean differences for only 11 of the 117 measured variables between the two scales. The data from the 11-point scale was collapsed to a 5-point scale and data sets were then combined to construct a 3-factor model with stable psychometric properties. Analysis was also completed regarding the strength of stereotypes. Mean scores were low for negative terms and high for positive terms, indicating the participants in this study associate negative stereotypes with only a small number of older adults and perceive the majority of this group in a positive light.

Subject Area

Gerontology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Carlson, Kristy J, "Individual Perceptions of Older Adults" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI3689334.