When does old age begin? The role of attitudes in age parameter placement

Unsworth, Kerrie L., McKee, Kevin J., & Mulligan, Catherine (2001) When does old age begin? The role of attitudes in age parameter placement. Social Psychology Review, 3(2), pp. 5-15.


This research examined the influence of a person’s age and their attitudes towards ageing in their placement of age parameters, and in particular, their placement of the beginning of old age. Previous research has shown that as an individual’s age increases, their parameter for the beginning of old age is placed further along the lifespan. Two groups (young and middle-aged adults) were recruited to test the hypothesis that an individual’s attitude towards old age will mediate the relationship between age and the placement of this age parameter, such that the middle-aged group will hold more negative attitudes towards old age causing them to place the parameter further away. Results showed that middle-aged adults were, in fact, more optimistic towards old age than young adults. Despite this unanticipated finding, the mediation model was tested and found to be valid. Thus, middle-aged people were more optimistic towards old age and this caused them to place the age parameter further down the lifespan. Two possible explanations were suggested: an increase in contact with counterstereotypical older adults, and a possible confounding effect of optimism towards living a long life. Policy implications were discussed.

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ID Code: 3029
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Ageing, attitudes to age
ISSN: 1532-7957
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE SCIENCES (170000) > PSYCHOLOGY (170100) > Industrial and Organisational Psychology (170107)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Human Resources Management (150305)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2001 The British Psychological Society
Copyright Statement: Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.
Deposited On: 06 Jan 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2011 18:00

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