Stereotypes of Old People Persist. A Swedish “Facts on Aging Quiz” in a 23-year Comparative Perspective

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Lars Tornstam


In 2005, as well as in 1982, almost 90 percent of Swedes subscribed to the stereotype that retirement pensioners suffer from loneliness and more than half of Swedes also believed that pensioners suffer from boredom and dissatisfaction with life. Little seems to have changed for the better, or even impaired with regard to the images of the psychological conditions of pensioners, at the same time as Swedes have become somewhat more knowledgeable about the physiological/material conditions associated with aging. This follows from a 2005 follow-up of a Swedish Facts on Aging Quiz, first given in 1982. The comparatively stable pattern of stereotypes over the 23-year period indicates that stereotypes – in old, well-known or permutated forms – will prevail as long as their ageist roots do. The changes observed indicate the possibility of a future pattern of stereotypes, which combines an exaggerated “positive” image of retirement pensioners’ health and wealth, with associated envy of the “greedy geezers”, and pity for their lonely and meaningless lives.


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