H.J. Coelho-Júnior1, E. Marzetti1,2
1. Department of Geriatrics and Orthopedics, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy; 2. Fondazione Policlinico Universitario “Agostino Gemelli” IRCCS, Rome, Italy
Corresponding Author: Hélio José Coelho Júnior, PhD, Center for Geriatric Medicine (Ce.M.I.), Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Largo Francesco Vito 1, 00168 Rome, Italy. Email: email@example.com
J Frailty Aging 2023;in press
Published online March 22, 2023, http://dx.doi.org/10.14283/jfa.2023.19
Older adult is a generic term used to refer to people older than an economic-established age cutoff (1). This primary category operates as a superordinate group subsuming numerous stereotypes created unconsciously from people’s past experiences and through the ways society understands and disseminates its view of aging, as a mental strategy to simplify and process the mass of information acquired in social interactions, determining what type of behavior would be more appropriate (1).
The general view about old persons is commonly based on the existence of individuals with positive or negative traits and hardly involves complex structures that take into consideration the interaction among numerous behaviors (1). This simplistic view is more common among young rather than old people and is frequently based on the existence of approximately five negative archetypes (i.e., severely impaired, recluse, despondent, vulnerable, and shrew/curmudgeon) (1).
A particular concern with these stereotypes is the presence of negative traits in the shew/curmudgeon category, such as inflexible, prejudiced, old-fashioned, close-minded, difficult to change, and conservative (1), that might impact intergenerational communication (2). Indeed, young adults mention that they experience dissatisfying conversations with old adults because they feel obliged to uncomfortably accommodate their ideas to show respect to old people (2). They commonly do not reply to older adults’ comments, even when they believe they should (2). This does not go unnoticed in the eyes of old people, who frequently mention a lack of involvement and a gap in the relationship with young adults (2). Such a scenario offers an optimum environment for the development of ageism and its negative outcomes (3).
Strategies to change these attitudes and improve intergenerational relationships have been explored. Among the available possibilities, noticeable attention has been given to approaches based on the contact hypothesis (4). This theory interprets prejudice as a product of fear, ignorance, hierarchy, and/or lack of shared life patterns and goals, and proposes that increasing intergroup contact might be a reasonable solution to reduce preconceived ideas (4). Although some criticism about this hypothesis exists, mentioning that results are not unanimous and might be restricted to specific types of prejudice (e.g., race) (4), it is possible that this strategy may also contribute to reducing ageism (2).
Authors have also proposed an extension of this theory, or an independent approach, in which individuals are indirectly introduced to the subject of prejudice, facilitating cognitive connection, and serving as the first step before straight contact (5). This method is commonly based on observation, Vicarious contact, and includes many feasible instruments, including books, television programs, and movies (5).
Pier Paolo Pasolini was an Italian polymath: writer, poet, and filmmaker, who distinguished himself by his strong criticism of bourgeois values and hypocrisy, socio-political problems, religious influence, and contempt (4). Pasolini published numerous novels and essays, six theater pieces, and twenty-eight movies and documentaries (4). One documentary, in particular, calls attention due to its detailed description of people’s thoughts about human behavior and manners. Comizi d’amore (1963) contains interviews made by Pier Paolo Pasolini with people from all over Italy about sexuality, same-gender relationships, women’s rights, prostitution, and family conceptualization.
Notably, many ideas expressed by interviewees would be classified as inflexible, prejudiced, and conservative nowadays. For instance, interviewed people classified sexual behavior of the 60’s as without limits or shameless. Women behavior is examined in many degrees, and most participants agree that an honorable woman is expected to not lose her virginity before marrying, have a formal work, walk alone, go to the cinema, or be divorced, even if the relationship involves toxic traits. They must be mothers!, stated a man. Somebody from Calabria said that it would be better to kill his ex-wife that be known as a cuckold. An older woman agrees with these views and declares that a woman can’t do as she pleases. On the other hand, young women mentioned that they always feel under pressure when walk alone or talk to a guy, as a friend. Same gender-relationships are described as immoral, pity, and disgusting for middle-aged and older men. They believe that this type of relationships are dangerous examples and must repressed in strictest ways.
These views were particularly common in the ’60s not only in Italy, but in much of the west. This suggests that many older adults that grew up during this period might share the ideas presented in the documentary. This scenario might explain the reason why older adults are frequently seen as old-fashioned, inflexible, conservative, and prejudiced, to quote a few characteristics, by young people (1). Notably, these themes have been extensively discussed and represent one of the main markers of the 2000s, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Author’s Contributions: Both authors listed have made a substantial, direct, and intellectual contribution to the work and approved it for publication.
Funding: The current study received no fundings.
Conflict of interest: The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
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